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Thursday, 26 June 2003
Page: 12691

Senator BROWN (12:49 PM) —The Governor-General Amendment Bill 2003 provides for a very substantial increase in the payment to the Governor-General. It is an increase that is above CPI and is certainly way out of comparison with the average wage increase that we have seen for ordinary Australians. When you compare it with the increases that are going to MPs and chief justices, it seems to be somewhat in order, but my concern here is that the whole process of wage increases not just for the Governor-General but for MPs, ministers and chief justices is increasingly getting out of kilter with what average Australians are earning.

I note that the Remuneration Tribunal, which determines these wage increases, takes into account such things as the CPI, but for the first time I recently noticed that it also takes into account increases in salaries for CEOs. We all know that, since the 1980s, the increase in remuneration to CEOs has been outrageous. It is totally out of kilter. It has increased in leaps and bounds, way ahead of the wages of average people. It is a purloining from the pockets of the average people for CEOS, some of whom have been total failures and have not delivered but actually lost for shareholders millions of dollars, and yet they get these extraordinary salaries, packages and so on.

Here we have the Remuneration Tribunal taking into account that unsupportable breakaway of self-declared wages for CEOs in determining what the elected and non-elected senior public officers in the nation will get. The Remuneration Tribunal need taking to task. I do not know when and how they took it on themselves to start taking into account CEOs' salary increases, but they have allowed a haemorrhaging of taxpayers' money into this salary determination process which should not be there. I do not know whether the Auditor-General should not have his attention drawn to the Remuneration Tribunal's deliberations, because I do not think that the Remuneration Tribunal are doing the right thing by anybody in this process.

I do note that the new Governor-General, bless him, has said that he will be giving his military pension to charity. That will be warmly applauded. Governor-General Deane did that, and that is a very fine gesture. My argument here is in no way with Governor-General designate Jeffery but with this wage system. A new wage for the Governor-General is voted by parliament each time a new Governor-General comes into office, but my problem here is that the whole process is out of kilter and it needs bringing back into kilter. This taking into consideration the increase in CEO salaries in the private sector has to be stopped. It is the worst index to look at. We should be indexing ourselves to the payment that Australians who work extraordinarily hard out there are getting and taking home. I draw the Senate's attention to that. It is an important matter and I will be coming back to it.