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Thursday, 9 December 1971
Page: 4505

Mr WHITLAM (Werriwa) (Leader of the Opposition) (12:49 PM) - There are a couple of matters that I wish to raise on this Bill. Firstly, the 'Canberra News' this afternoon states: . . Labor Caucus decided to try to cancel increases recently granted to Second Division officers of the Commonwealth Public Service, but is still considering how to go about this unprecedented move.

I can only presume that the author of this report has misunderstood what the Labor caucus did decide on this matter last Wednesday evening. The Opposition decided to reconsider its attitude to this Bill in the light of the comments which the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Lynch) made about salary and wage restraint. It decided that it would now oppose the increases in this Bill when it was considered in the Senate. As we know, the Senate has accepted the Opposition's attitude. At no time did the Opposition consider the position of second division officers of the Commonwealth Public Service; in any case, increases in their salaries do not come before the Parliament by way of legislation. There was no reference made to their situation at all by caucus. The only reference made was to the holders of statutory offices.

The remaining matter I want to state is this: Of all the Bills dealing with salaries of the highest paid persons in Commonwealth employment, this is the only one which has proceeded. Since there have been remarks outside the House as to the attitude that the House should take on such matters, I recall - and it is appropriate that I should because the author of the recommendations, Sir Frank Richardson, was in the Speaker's Gallery earlier - that there was an occasion in 1959 when a committee made recommendations concerning' increases in salaries, allowances and pensions for everybody in the Parliament and also for persons who hold better remunerated positions in the Parliament. On that occasion the Government abandoned some of the recommendations with regard to the better remunerated persons in the Parliament. It has not been the unvarying practice to take recommendations as a whole and accept them as a whole. In the only conversation I have had on this matter with the Prime Minister I pointed out this precedent. Relying on his memory--

Mr McMahon - When was that?

Mr WHITLAM - At about 8.15, I suppose, on Wednesday night behind the Speaker's chair.

Mr McMahon - You have made a mistake. You were not there and neither was 1. 1 spoke to you about 2.30.

Mr WHITLAM - Everybody in the House saw us go behind the Speaker's chair with the Leader of the House (Mr Swartz) so everybody here has, from his own observation, an instance of the Prime Minister's accuracy or his phenomenal memory. I quoted this precedent and the right honourable gentleman, relying on his memory, doubted it. I checked and my memory was accurate. I merely point this out. There have been previous reports where the more highly remunerated people have not got the amounts recommended. We are not going to discuss any of the other Bills; it might be out of order. But the altitude of my Party is, I should tell the Parliament, that the amounts accepted by the Government in respect of all members of Parliament we thought were proper. Those which were accepted by the Government for the more highly remunerated persons in the Parliament were regarded as inappropriate. I take it that that is why the Salaries Bill for first division people has been abandoned and why, of course, the Senate accepted the attitude of the Opposition in respect of the holders of statutory offices. The Opposition thought it singularly inappropriate that on Tuesday night we should all be adjured to show restraint and that before dinner the following night there should be very large increases proposed for the persons who are most highly remunerated by the Commonwealth.

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