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Thursday, 13 February 2003
Page: 11841

Mr McCLELLAND (2:58 PM) —My question is again to the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations. Minister, on a day when yet another corporate executive has walked away with a $33 million golden handshake, why have you introduced legislation to suppress wage rises for Australia's lowest paid workers? Isn't it the case that an Australian on the minimum wage would have to work for 1,500 years to earn the $33 million this banking executive got just for quitting his job? Minister, shouldn't you be trying to rein in the greed of corporate executives instead of taking a stick to Australia's lowest paid workers?

Mr ABBOTT (Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service) —The member for Barton will be pleased to know that I entirely share the disgust which has been expressed by people such as the Treasurer about this kind of payment.

Honourable members interjecting

The SPEAKER —The member for Ballarat is warned!

Mr ABBOTT —I think, along with all members of this House, that millions of Australian workers are entitled to feel badly ripped off by this decision to award so much money to an executive. But the important thing to note is that shareholders and directors of companies have responsibilities, and I very much fear that the directors of the companies concerned have let down their shareholders in allowing this kind of package to stand.

The SPEAKER —The member for Bass is warned!

Mr ABBOTT —On the subject of doing the right thing by workers, I am proud to say that this government has created 1¼ million new jobs since 1996. This very day we know that job numbers are at an all-time record, full-time jobs are at an all-time record and participation is at an all-time record. Not only that, but the workers of Australia are enjoying unprecedented wage rises. Average weekly full-time earnings are up by 13 per cent in real terms under this government. Basic award earnings are up by five per cent under this government. Under the former government, basic award earnings actually fell by three per cent. Let me make it very clear. Under the former government, executive salaries were not controlled and workers' pay fell. We do not believe in imposing a Stalinist regime on anyone's pay. Workers' pay has increased under this government and it will continue to increase.