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Monday, 7 November 2005
Page: 31

Mr ANTHONY SMITH (2:28 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations. Would the minister inform the House how all Australians have benefited from rising real wages under the Howard government, including people on social security benefits? Are there any alternative policies?

Mr ANDREWS (Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service) —I thank the member for Casey for his question. As his question indicates, Australians have benefited from increases in real wages in this country since this government has been in office—not only ordinary working Australians but, indeed, pensioners as well, because pensions are linked to average male weekly earnings and set at 25 per cent of this figure. That is important because this was the first government to link pensions to average weekly earnings. It was something that was never done in the way in which this government has done through legislation—

Mr Beazley —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order on relevance. You are not entitled in question time to stand here and deliberately mislead the House—

The SPEAKER —The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat. I remind the Leader of the Opposition that there are forms of the House whereby he may choose to respond if he so wishes, but that is not through a point of order.

Mr ANDREWS —If the Leader of the Opposition were correct he would able to produce his legislation. The reality is that this was the government that legislated to make that link, and you know it, sport!

Ms King interjecting

The SPEAKER —The member for Ballarat is warned!

Mr ANDREWS —In the face of this, what we have seen is an increase in real wages for Australians and, because of that, we have seen increases in pensions for Australians. Despite this, we have another campaign of misinformation by the Labor Party. I came across a letter that the member for Cowan is distributing to constituents in his electorate, in which he says in part, ‘Just a one per cent per annum reduction in wages growth will leave a single pensioner almost $20 per fortnight worse off and a couple $30 worse off.’ Apart from the very dubious mathematics—

Ms Hoare interjecting

The SPEAKER —The member for Charlton!

Mr ANDREWS —involved in that claim—

Ms Hoare interjecting

The SPEAKER —The member for Charlton is warned!

Mr ANDREWS —it is based on a flawed assumption. This government has been about increasing real wages, unlike the Labor Party, which was about reducing real wages. Mr Speaker, ask yourself: who in this parliament was part of a government that reduced real wages? The Leader of the Opposition. Not only that, he actually claimed credit for it.

Mr Albanese interjecting

The SPEAKER —The member for Grayndler has been warned. He is on very thin ice.

Mr ANDREWS —This year on 1 April, the Leader of the Opposition said:

We achieved 13 years of wage restraint under the Accord. The wage share of GDP came down from 60.1 per cent when we took office down to the lowest it had been since 1968. We—

that is, the ALP—

left office with the wage share of GDP at 55.3 per cent.

That is from 60 per cent down to 55 per cent.

Mr Tanner interjecting

The SPEAKER —The member for Melbourne is warned!

Mr ANDREWS —On top of that, we had the former Prime Minister and former Treasurer of the ALP government, Mr Keating—

Mr Beazley —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order on relevance. This is a rant. He says that the wages share came down from 60 to 55 as a point, but he then does not tell the parliament that it is now 53.

The SPEAKER —There is no point of order.

Mr ANDREWS —The reality is that, under the Labor Party, real wages went up by 1.2 per cent; under this government, they have gone up by 14.9 per cent—1.2 per cent versus 14.9 per cent. This was reinforced by the former Prime Minister, Mr Keating, when, in an interview in the Sydney Morning Herald on Saturday, he is quoted as saying:

When Labor was in office, under the accord with the ACTU, with all power, what did we do? We engineered a fall in real wages ...

If the honourable member for Cowan and others on the other side are going to write to their constituents about changes in wages, they ought to adopt what has happened in the last 10 years—that is, unlike when their side were in government and real wages were going down, what has happened under this government is that real wages have gone up.