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Friday, 20 November 1936

Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia.) (Minister for External Affairs) [11.12].- I move-

That the hillbe now readasecondtime.

This is a short measure, the purpose of which is to rectify a legal difficulty which has arisen out of the operation of the Finanoial Relief Act passed by Parliament recently. It relates to the operation of the. provisions in various regulations, by-laws, &c, which provide for the adjustment of salariesof Commonwealth officers and employees in accordance with variations of the cost of living. The regulations to which I refer provide that the salaries of officers shall be adjusted as from the first day of July in each year in accordance with cost of living index figures for the previous calendar year as published by the Commonwealth Statistician. These regulations, by-laws, Sui., were, in effect, suspended by the operation of the Financial Emergency Act. The repeal of the relative sections of the Financial Emergency Act automatically brings the various regulations regarding cost of living into operation, but legal authorities have ruled that as the adjustment of salaries was not actually made under those regulations, &c, as from the 1st July last in respect of personnel whose salaries were then subject to reduction under the Financial Emergency Act, no further adjustment under those regulations can legally be made until the 1st July, 1937. This would have the effect of entitling all such personnel to the full standard 1926 rates of salaries, without any reduction whatever in respect of cost of living, and would place officers and employees in a better position than they would have been in, hadthe Financial Emergency Act never beenenacted. The normal reduction from rhe1926 rates at present is £30 per annum. It had been intended to overcome this difficulty by passing a regulation or by-law in respect of each section of Commonwealth employees concerned ; but it has been ascertained that it would be necessary to move the Public Service Arbitrator to grant awards to the same effect in respect of all sections of employees whose salaries are governed by his awards. This would have involved considerable delay, and also would have necessitated retrospective action so that all sections of employees would be similarly treated. The bill now before the Senate merely provides that the normal cost of living adjustment of salaries shall apply to the first periodical payments of salaries which were increased by the Financial Relief Act recently passed, and shall continue until the end of this financial year, when the cost of living provisions of the regulations, by-laws, &c, governing the various services, will automatically come into operation as from the 1st July, 1937. No new principle is involved in the bill, which is necessary merely to meet a legal technicality.

Debate (on motion by Senator

Collings) adjourned.

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