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Thursday, 9 December 1971
Page: 4388

Mr FOSTER (STURT, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Is the Prime Minister aware that the take-home pay of the minimum wage earners in Australia with dependent wives and children is less than 5 per cent of the present total weekly wage of the Prime Minister? Does he consider the differential to be justified? Will his Government undertake to restore wage values to such workers to enable them to live above the poverty line?

Mr McMAHON - It would have been preferable had this question been directed to my colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service. As the honourable gentleman will know, or should know, we have in this country an Arbitration Commission which has the function of determining minimum and award wages. Negotiations also take place outside the Commission which involve what is called the wage group, which also encompass a very large section of wage increases. To determine such matters for the Commonwealth Civil Service, there is the Public Service Arbitrator. These avenues are all open to the unions so that they can represent the best interests of the working man. But I think the honourable gentleman, having the interests of the lower paid workers at heart, would know that these days, with the great power of the big unions, particularly unions like the Amalgamated Engineering Union -

Mr FOSTER - They are not the lowest paid workers. I was talking about lowest paid workers.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! The honourable member has been here long enough to know that he should not interject after he has asked his question.

Mr McMAHON - It is known that since Mr Albert Monk ceased to be President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions the emphasis has shifted away from that body assisting the lower paid worker to its backing to the limit of its capacity the strength of the bigger unions, and it is the bigger unions which are getting the rewards.If the honourable member is genuine in his wish to help the lower paid workers he should try to influence the ACTUto change its policy in the interests of greater wage justice.

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