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Wednesday, 28 March 1973
Page: 812

Mr SNEDDEN (Bruce) (Leader of the Opposition) - There has been no movement in parliamentary salaries since 1968. During that time there has been a very considerable decline in the spending power of members' salaries and their relativity to the incomes of the rest of the community but no reduction in their necessary personal and political expenditure. Their reduced relative income has been dramatic due to the rapidity n wage hikes and relative inflation rate. The parliamentary salary as a percentage of average weekly earnings has declined from 7.80 per cent in 1968 to 196 per cent in 1972. This has led to the need for large percentage increases to restore their earlier position. The restoration of relativities in the 1968 increase was 35.7 per cent. The increase now has had *o be more than 50 per cent. The reason is of course that there has not been the gradual improvement that has benefited other sectors in the community. Average weekly earnings have moved from $65.30 in 1968 to $104 in 1973. This has been an increase of almost 60 per cent. To keep up with those average weekly earnings members' salaries would have moved by $5,600.

The duties of a member of Parliament are very important to the welfare of this country. Back benchers and front benchers alike must be men of quality. The Parliament provides the men to be the Executive for the management of this country. The quality ot our national management is dependent on the quality of the elected members of this Parliament. From them comes the Ministry who make the most important decisions affecting life in Australia and also the Opposition parties who try to make those decisions better.

We do not know the detailed submissions that have been considered by the Government when they were making the decisions on this Bill, but in general terms the Opposition has decided to support the Bill. At the end of 1971 we as Government moved to increase the members' salary from $9,500 per annum to $13,000 per annum, but the legislation was not proceeded with. This was $1,000 less than the amount Judge Kerr in his report recommended, although we believed his recommendations were not excessive. There have been significant wage movements since then. We will support also the establishment of the tribunal recommended in the Bill, but we do this subject to examination of its actual provisions when presented to the House. In December 1971 we recommended the establishment of a tribunal generally along the lines proposed by the Kerr report. The major difference between the concepts is that the tribunal then proposed would have made recommendations but would not have had authority to make determinations as to salaries and allowances. The responsibility of those determinations would have rested with the Parliament. As referred to in the speech of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) it may be automatic. Hence we will look at that provision when it comes before this House. There certainly is merit in finding a system which will prevent members from suffering a dramatic erosion of their incomes over periods of up to 5 years without the accompanying public trauma, when the situation is corrected. The increases do not appear excessive; they are less than would have resulted from catching up with movements in average weekly earnings since the last increase in 196S.

The Prime Minister, in speaking to the Bill, mentioned the commitment that has been given by the Government in relation to pensions and which will be introduced as legislation in the future. I wish to say to him now. as I have said to him outside the House, that when that matter is being considered I think it would be appropriate that the present anomaly which applies to women members of the House of Representatives and the Senate should be corrected.

Mr Whitlam - I agree.

Mr SNEDDEN - I understand that the Prime Minister, as he has now indicated by way of interjection, agrees with me. I am glad to hear that and I look forward to that anomaly being corrected in the legislation. I support the Bill.

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