Meet Tweed?s $300,000 a year man

TWEED'S Labor MP Neville Newell failed to save the Murwillumbah train service and has local licensed clubs fuming over increased poker machine taxes, but he knows how to bring home the bacon.

For himself.

Following a pay rise for all NSW politicians at the beginning of July, Mr Newell is now Tweed's $300,000 man ? and one of the state's best-paid backbenchers.

According to research released by the Greens Party he earns more than other local MPs, including National Party deputy leader Don Page whose elector-ate currently includes the southern Tweed Coast and National Party backbencher for Lismore Thomas George, whose seat is set to include Murwillumbah at the 2007 election.

Mr Newell, whose responsibilities include being parliamentary secretary to Rural Affairs, Local Government, Emergency Services and Lands Minister Tony Kelly, is now entitled to $305,549.

But yesterday he indicated surprise at the figure.

"Who's getting $300,000? I've been shortchanged," he said.

But he confirmed that allowances, which include $65,000 for sending letters to voters like you, "are always expended".

His entitlement is roughly $75,000 short of the income and perks of the premier.

Upper House member and Greens MP Lee Rhiannon, who has launched the campaign to reveal pollies' pay and perks and who takes from the NSW taxpayer income plus perks totalling $172,840, said yesterday the Greens believed the public was entitled to know how much their politicians cost them.

She said the Greens set up a website outlining the pay, and perks of each of the state's pollies last July and would soon update the figures to reflect the just-granted 4.1 per cent increase in base salary, 2.4 per cent increase in electoral allowance and 11 per cent increase in the so-called Sydney allowance paid to country members.

She said Mr Newell was one of the highest-paid backbenchers, but she had heard "conflicting stories" on how hard he worked.

Don Page said he paid at least a third of the salary component of his entitlement in tax and he certainly did not have any left over from the expenses component after travelling throughout NSW as deputy Nationals leader.

"I earn my money, let me assure you," he said.

Mr Page was surprised his entitlements and salary added up to nearly $300,000 and that Mr Newell was entitled to more.

Thomas George was overseas on study leave and could not be contacted.

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