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Comment by Minister on pay rises

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The latest pay rise for Austral£al-s_ workforce, being hailed by the

trade union, movement as a fair and just Christmas present, is being

seen by the Federal Government, employers and many other people as about the worst thing that could have happened to Australia at the present time. . .

The reason, which everyone knows including the unions, is that a

pay rise when multiplied by the national workforce of several million

leads to higher prices which immediately cancel out the benefit of the

fatter pay packet.

This is simple arithmetic now understood by nearly everyone in the community.

It is acknowledged that one of the functions of unions is to seek pay

. rises and improved conditions for their members and most have a

reasonably good record generally in seeking relatively small pay rises

for specific reasons. The militant unions have a very bad record of

.- seeking absurdly high pay rises for quite unjustified reasons often

with an ideological base. ^

On this occasion the villain for Australia is the National Arbitration

Commission which, by its recent decision to grant a 4% wage increase

. to every worker has disregarded the appeals for restraint by the Federal

Government and employers.

These appeals were based on Australia's delicate economic situation of

a gradual improvement in investment, economic buoyancy and unemployment.

The 4% pay rise puts all this in jeopardy and advantages only those with

a job. It disadvantages pensioners, those on fixed incomes and those

without is likely to further increase unemployment. ' . ' k ■

Taking unemployment as the yardstick of economic health, the major

factors causing it are high wages, demands for high wages, strikes in

. support of high wages, export uncompetiveness caused by high wages and

loss of value in the Australian dollar internationally resulting from

a stagnant economy brought about by increasingly high wages and no

matching productivity.

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Only the muddle-headed. would argue that such ever spiralling wages

are in the national interest - it is this pattern of unearned wage

increases and the inevitable inflation Eiccompanying the spiral which

causes unemployment.. :

The Federal Government, in just three years, has brought inflation under

control, persuaded employers to begin hiring workers, attracted new

investment in Australia and established a progressive basis for

continuing economic improvement.

The Arbitration Commission, at one stroke, has put all this at risk.

Mr Hawke applauds it, Mr Duns tan applauds it but in the next breath

we can expect them to blame the Federal Government although it has

consistently opposed such pay rises. They have notJ . ’

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I have recently been criticised in a campaign by pensioners, with \

media support, for the plight of people on fixed incomes. No

pensioner, no person on a fixed income nor any unemployed person should

be under any illusion as to where the A.L.P. stands when it comes to

deciding whether to protect them or unionists. . ;

The basis of the criticism was that people on fixed incomes are put

at a further disadvantage in spending power every time there is a pay

rise for workers because they don't get a higher pension at the same

time. ^

My claim, repeated here, is that the Fraser Government is the only

political influence in Australia today which is truly acting in the

xinterests of those on fixed incomes, for pensioners and the unemployed,

and ultimately this will be recognised by them.

My answer now, in the wake of the latest decision by the Arbitration

Commission, which operates independently of the Federal Government,

is that pensioners should be complaining to the Commission itself,

to militant trade union leaders and to the A.L.P. which cares only

for the interests of its political masters in the unions.

k ,

At the very time that employers are beginning to expand as part of

what promised to be another attempt to awaken the sleeping economic

giant that is Australia, unemployment is given another fillip.

How can any employer, big or small, now feel the same about the

even greater cost of taking on more workers as suggested recently

by Mr Wright, State Minister for Labour. .

I deplore this decision by the Arbitration Commission and I believe

that in simple blunt terms those who applaud it have placed the

interests of unionist’s before everybody else's. .