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Tuesday, 27 May 2003
Page: 15030


Mrs CROSIO (2:44 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations. Can the minister explain to a hotel valet from Sydney who gave evidence to the poverty inquiry yesterday of how she is trying to support five children on $306 a week why the government has introduced legislation to suppress any pay rises for her and 1.7 million other award-dependent, low-paid Australian workers? Isn't it the case, Minister, that this woman would have to work for over 100 years to earn what the government-appointed directors of Telstra have agreed chief executive Ziggy Switkowski will be paid if he retires early?


The SPEAKER —I will allow the question to stand, although I point out that the use of names in questions is not normally permitted unless necessary to illustrate the question.

Opposition members interjecting


The SPEAKER —It is extraordinary that people who have been in the House almost as long as I have been have as much difficulty as they seem to have understanding the standing orders, of which every one of them has a copy.


Mr Leo McLeay —There is no standing order about not using names!


The SPEAKER —The member for Watson is warned! There is a standing order for questions and a standing order for answers. The two are quite different, as the member for Fraser has often reminded me.


Mr ABBOTT (Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service) —I can certainly understand that the lady in question certainly is doing it tough. I can understand that. She is doing it tough, and I do not think anyone in this House would deny that someone earning that kind of wage is doing it tough. But I would point out to the member for Prospect that under this government basic award earnings have gone up by almost 10 per cent in real terms since 1996 and that under the former government basic award earnings actually fell. They fell five per cent in real terms during the life of the former Labor government.

The other point I would make in response to the member for Prospect is that a lady on that wage with those family circumstances would be receiving a very large amount of money through the welfare system out of the social security budget. That is as it should be. This government has on a number of occasions—through the family tax package, through the new tax system—done more for families with children.



The SPEAKER —Order! The member for Hasluck!


Mr ABBOTT —This government is doing everything it can to help the low-paid workers of Australia. It has delivered more jobs, it has delivered higher pay and in the most recent budget it delivered lower tax.