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Friday, 15 June 1984
Page: 3136

Senator PETER BAUME —My question is directed to the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs. I refer her to her extraordinary answer in the Senate yesterday when she feigned ignorance of academic staff outrage at the Government's decision to oppose the original Ludeke salary decision and, in classic newspeak style, tried to suggest that the Government had supported something it had in fact opposed. Has she seen reports in today's newspapers of the Sydney march by more than 300 academic staff protesting about the Government's attitude to the salary tribunal? Is she aware of meetings in Lismore, Armidale, Newcastle, Wagga , Albury, Canberra, the University of New South Wales and other places at which staff showed what they thought of the Government's action? Is she aware that academics at the South Australian College of Advanced Education intend demonstrating against her when she visits there next week? Will she now admit that the Government has broken the pre-election promises it made to tertiary academic staff about their salary structures? Finally, what more will academics have to do before the Minister becomes aware of their protests?

Senator RYAN —I do not know whether the roll-call of names of cities and towns of Australia that Senator Peter Baume has just inflicted on us represents an assessment of industrial action that academic unions are taking or will be taking. I saw a news report in the Sydney Morning Herald of a march in the streets of Sydney of academics dressed in their academic gowns. But quite clearly, unions have the right to express their views about decisions taken by the Academic Salaries Tribunal and by the Government. I do not know what sort of response Senator Peter Baume expects me to make about the news that academics will protest when I visit the South Australian College of Advanced Education next week. They are entitled to express their views to me, as the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs, and to the public. All that I can say is that they know, as the general public will come to know very quickly, that they have had an increase above what wages and salary earners in the rest of the community have had. They are getting the 5 per cent national wage increase that every other wage and salary earner is getting. They are also getting an extra 5 per cent increase awarded by the Ludeke decision. The fact that the Tribunal agreed with the Government's submission that that 5 per cent could be phased in still puts the academics who are now in receipt of a 10 per cent increase, a 7 per cent increase this year, ahead of the increases that most wage and salary earners will receive.

Overall, as everyone knows, academics are extremely well paid. I have a salary scale here. At the top level it shows that a professor receives now, under the 2 per cent increase, over $52,000 a year, whereas average weekly earnings are only something in excess of $18,000. There is a question of public relativities here. If the academics decide that the fact that they have got a 5 per cent increase in addition to the 5 per cent increase that they are getting under the national wage case is not good enough, they are entitled to take what action they see fit . But I do not believe that there will be a great deal of public sympathy for such action; nor do I believe that they will be acting in the interests of their students, the purpose of their being there, if they engage in industrial action which involves withdrawing any services from students. However, we live in a democracy. If the academics believe that the 5 per cent increase that they have just been awarded from the Ludeke decision on top of the 5 per cent national wage and salary increase is not enough, given the salary scales they already have, they are entitled to say so.