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Thursday, 4 December 1986
Page: 3373

Senator Dame MARGARET GUILFOYLE — Is the Leader of the Government in the Senate aware of the reported statement of the Secretary to the Treasury, Mr Fraser, that the Budget forecast of a 6.25 per cent increase in wages in 1986-87 is not in line with the average wages growth of our trading partners of 4.5 per cent? Is this statement in direct contrast to statements in the Budget Papers? Further, did Mr Fraser question whether the 6.25 per cent increase as forecast would be met under the proposed two-tier wages system? Will the Minister inform the Senate whether the Government still supports this two-tier wages system and, if so, whether that support is contrary to the advice of the Treasury?

Senator BUTTON —A few days ago I saw the purported statement by Mr Fraser, as reported in the Press, and his comments about wage increases not being in line with those of some of our major trading partners. I understand that and, while I have not examined those comparisons myself, I know that that is Mr Fraser's view as reported. Whether that is in direct conflict with the Budget projections I very much doubt. Any forecast increase in wages as has been articulated by the Commonwealth Government in the national wage case is in line with the Budget projections.

On the part of the question dealing with the proposed two-tier wages system, as I understand it the Commonwealth made a submission in which it supported in principle the introduction of the two-tier wages system, subject to the fact that it was dependent upon capacity to pay and a `cap'-that is the expression that is used-or a ceiling, as it were, on any possible claims under the two-tier wage system. In respect of the two parts of the question which have been directed to me, the answer is that the Government, in its wages submission, has put the two points of view that I identified.

Senator Dame MARGARET GUILFOYLE —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I thank the Minister for his response. I wonder whether he could address the last part of my question which was, in effect: In view of the statements of Mr Fraser as recently reported, is the Government's support for the two-tiered wage system contrary to advice received from the Treasury?

Senator BUTTON —I am not able to answer that question, but I believe not. The position to be put by the Commonwealth in wage cases is, as I understand it, subject to discussion between representatives of a number of departments. As far as I am aware, there was no dissenting view from the Treasury. But that is not a matter about which I am absolutely certain. Perhaps that part of the question ought to be directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer.