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Tuesday, 26 November 1974
Page: 2718

Senator Sir MAGNUSCORMACK (Victoria) ( 12.1 8)-I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

Mr President,I think I should make a preparatory statement before I proceed to the substantive matter of the Bill. In 1973 there was an administrative error for which I feel in part that I was responsible, or at least I should have taken some cognisance of the fact that this administrative error had occurred. Subsequently I argued the case concerning the remuneration of the Principal Parliamentary Reporter rather forcibly before the Remuneration Tribunal presided over by His Honour Mr Justice Campbell. Unfortunately, for reasons well known to honourable senators that matter was lost sight of. However, while I have been putting together my thoughts on this matter, my memory went back to a novel, written by an eminent German author in the 1930s, called 'The Case of Sergeant Grischa'. I mention this merely to illustrate to honourable senators how an injustice can be perpetrated not because people are involved in an attempt to rectify the injustice but simply because, in the case of Sergeant Grischa, there was a power struggle between 2 elements of the great German General Staff as to whether the unfortunate Russian prisoner, Sergeant Grischa, was going to be shot. I forget who won the case in the end, but I know that in the novel Sergeant Grischa was shot.

When honourable senators are considering this Bill at the Committee stage or even at the second reading stage I would be grateful if they would not allow themselves to be involved in considerations of other matters so that in this case the Principal Parliamentary Reporter, who seems to me to be in much the same situation as Sergeant Grischa, will not be taken out on a cold morning and dealt with. I have mentioned that the purpose of this Bill is to correct a serious anomaly and to give a measure of justice in respect of the salary applicable to the position of the Principal Parliamentary Reporter, who is the Permanent Head of the Department of the Parliamentary Reporting Staff. In statute terms this office has the status of First Division, but in my experience it has never attracted the salary of a First Division Executive department. In the past the salary has been fixed by Cabinet without, I regret to say, reference to the Presiding Officers of the Parliament for advice.

The last major adjustment was made in December 1971 after a review of Second Division salaries and the Hansard chief's salary was fixed then at $ 1 5,879, which was equivalent only to level 2 of the Second Division. It is to be noted that the top level of the Second Division is level 6, which carries a current salary of $26,880. In 1973 the office of Principal Parliamentary Reporter was included in the Schedule to the Remuneration and Allowances Act, and in the middle of that year the Campbell Tribunal determined that the salary should be $20,000. As honourable senators will recall, the Senate disapproved the whole of that determination. The result is that the salary of the Principal Parliamentary Reporter is now the fourth highest in his own Department. In other words, 3 other officers of his Department are ahead of him. If the Public Service Arbitrator grants a substantial part of the current Third Division claim for a salary increase of 33 per cent, the Principal Parliamentary Reporter will be relegated from number 4 to number 3 1 on his own departmental payroll.

The present salary structure in the reporting section of the Department of the Parliamentary Reporting Staff is as follows: The Principal Parliamentary Reporter receives $15,983. The Assistant Principal Parliamentary Reporter receives $17,776. A Staff Leader in the Department receives $16,571. A supervisor receives $14,735. A senior reporter receives $14,123. A reporter receives $13,511. The following comparison between the salary of the Commonwealth Hansard chief and those of State Hansard chiefs shows the Principal Parliamentary Reporter in second last position, $43 above the South Australian chief. The actual rates of remuneration, for much less responsibility in the State parliaments, are as follows: In Queensland the salary is $20,01 1. In Victoria it is $19,500. In New South Wales it is $18,578. In Western Australia it is $16,892. The salary of the Principal Parliamentary Reporter in the Commonwealth Parliament is below all those rates, at $ 1 5,983. In South Australia the salary is $ 1 5,940. The State Hansard chiefs do not have the same responsibilities as the Principal Parliamentary Reporter. Their parliaments are smaller numerically; their staffs are not more than one-quarter the size of the Federal staff in busy periods; their committee and conference reporting work is almost negligible compared with that of the Federal staff, which serves 31 parliamentary committees and 18 government departments; and the days and hours of sitting are demonstrably fewer in the State Houses.

These statements I make to honourable senators are matters of record and I do not intend to take up any more of the time of the Senate with statistics and details. The salary sought by this Bill is that determined by the Remuneration Tribunal, namely, $20,000 per annum. The worsening position of the Principal Parliamentary Reporter became a source of concern to me when I was President of the Senate, as I indicated earlier. For months I racked my brains to find a solution to this problem. I see in this proposed legislation the way to correct an absurdity. No doubt the holders of a number of statutory offices set out in the Schedule to the Remuneration and Allowances Act are also at a salary disadvantage in relation to their immediate deputies, but 1 feel that none could be in such an invidious position as the Principal Parliamentary Reporter of this Parliament, who is well known to every member of Parliament.

I put this proposal strongly to the Senate, convinced not only of its simple justice but also believing that Parliament owes it to a long serving and dedicated officer of this Parliament to pass this Bill. I hope that it will do so. I know that there is much that worries the Ministry and members of Parliament at the present time, but it has been the characteristic of Parliament, as I read its history, that it will often be persuaded to put aside its concern with high and mighty affairs in order to deal with an injustice that it has unconsciously perpetrated on one of its own officers. On those grounds I commend the Bill to honourable senators.

Debate (on motion by Senator Willesee) adjourned.

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