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Thursday, 9 December 1971
Page: 4508

Mr SNEDDEN (Bruce) (Treasurer) - The attitude of the Opposition to this particular Bill is quite extraordinary. This Bill was introduced to give increases of salary to those statutory officers who are equated with the Second Division of the Commonwealth Public Service. A month or so ago the Commonwealth Public Service Arbitrator considered the matter and granted a 15 per cent wage increase to Second Division officers, all of whom are members of unions. At the time that increase was granted the spokesman for the Opposition on industrial matters the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) who has just finished his contribution, welcomed that decision by the Arbitrator. That decision was then applied by the Government by way of regulation, which is the normal way in which it is done, because the Government accepted the Arbitrator's decision on the matter. As a consequence the increased wage flowed to Second Division officers. The Government decided that it was incumbent upon it, out of justice to these statutory officers who are equated with Second Division officers, to give them the same increases. The Bill passed this House. lt went to the Senate, and in the Senate there was a discrimination against members of the wage earning sector of the community who are equated with the Second Division and who historically have received the same increase as was awarded by the Arbitrator to the Second Division. Tonight, by . an extraordinary course of events, the Opposition in the Senate decided to reject something which it has consistently supported in the past. It is open to any observer to conclude why that was done. There could be only 2 alternatives. One alternative is that Opposition members acted out of pique because they tried to play politics on a matter of parliamentary salaries which has historically been approached in a bipartisan attitude. In playing politics they found that the Government was not prepared to subordinate this matter to party politics. It had to be above that. And that has been the Government's action in relation to this matter. It could only be one of two choices. The Government has been saying that the present problems of economic management in the country today are inflationary pressures which arise out of wage-push pressures mainly - not wholly I have never said wholly, but I have said mainly. That is the principal cause of it.

The Opposition, up to this day, in deference to its relationship with the unions which have been relentlessly pushing wage claims, has been unwilling to acknowledge the fact that the inflationary pressures' flow from these ruthlessly, relentlessly pushed wage claims. Tonight we have heard the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), supported by the Opposition's spokesman on industrial matters, the honourable member for Hindmarsh acknowledged for the first time the reality of the Government's constantly asserted claim that the economic management problem today of inflationary pressures is the wage-push pressure. The Opposition has adopted the truth of that assertion. 1 welcome that. If the Opposition wishes to choose restraint I congratulate it for doing so and 1 can assure honourable members of the Opposition that if it comes to a competition in restraint the Government will be more successful and will have more to offer than they have.

The honourable member for Hindmarsh, in a characteristic distortion of arguments speaks of the poor devils, as he described them, on S50 to $60 a week. There can be no doubt that a person receiving an income of' $50 or $60 a week is in a much less advantageous position than a person who is, for instance, a member of Parliament.


Mr SNEDDEN - Or on $29,000 like myself. One does not need to be a Rhodes scholar to know the difference between $50 or $60 a week and $9,500 and $29,000 a year. What the Government needs is to have compassion for the man on the small income and do what it can as a government to adopt policies which will benefit him. The Government is adopting policies to benefit him, because the person who is the most defenceless against inflation is the very poor devil of whom the honourable member talks. What can he do to defend himself when inflation is forced by relentlessly pursued wage claims by those who possess power? Those who possess power are the ones who are able to protect themselves against inflation. The people who cannot do so are the poor devils on $50 to $60 a week, more especially if their $50 or $60 a week comes from a fixed income. So the Government will pursue its policy of economic management directed towards arresting the inflationary pressures. The Government will continue to assert as strongly as it can, and give what leadership it can, in exercising restraint in this field. For by so doing it will be serving the interests of the people of Australia.

Mr CLYDECAMERON (Hindmarsh)Mr Chairman, I have been misrepresented. I want to make a personal explanation. The Treasurer (Mr Snedden) has stated that I applauded the Government's decision to bring in regulations in line with the Public Service Arbitrator's decision in resp ect of the Second Division officers. Lei me tell . the Treasurer, who has already served one term at least as Minister for Labour and National Service, that no law requires the Government to bring in a regulation !o give effect to a determination of the Public Service Arbitrator. He ought to read his books. At no time - never since this Parliament has been assembled - has it been necessary for a government to bring in a regulation to give effect to the Public Service Arbitrator's determination. A determination is issued by the Arbitrator in the form of a determination, and it becomes operative in that form. I repeat, no regulation is needed.

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