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Friday, 26 May 1972
Page: 2209

Senator MURPHY (New South WalesLeader of the Opposition) - As to the procedural tidying up that the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) has suggested, I do not think there will be any difficulty. The Opposition was aware of the problems that would be created. But I think that we regarded that, in the light of what will happen, as a rather academic question.

Senator Little - It would not be academic to the Senior Commissioner.

Senator MURPHY - Well, it will be academic as far as the Senior Commissioner is concerned if the information that we have is the same - probably it is - as the Government has, and that is why no special provision was made in regard to an increased salary for the Senior Commissioner. We had no thought that any injustice would be done there, and we are sure that none will be. The suggestion made by the Attorney-General seems to be a reasonable one to clean up this portion, and there will be no difficulty about the other matter of the constitution of the Commission.

The main matter is whether a change should be made in the salary. The general basis has been set out by my colleagues in the chamber - a number of Government members as well as members of the Australian Democratic Labor Party and the

Opposition. It is clear that there are serious anomalies in salaries under Federal law. There is something wrong, for a start, in a system which provides for some employees of Commonwealth instrumentalties salaries of approximately $30,000 a year, perhaps to be increased to $40,000 a year. I am referring now to Qantas captains and pilots. The situation seems to me to be extraordinary. Looking in other areas we find tremendous anomalies caused not by Act of Parliament but by administrative decision. 1 understand that further anomalies have been created between various permanent heads who are not members of the First Division. This results from administrative decision. I am not saying that the Clerks in this place who are permanent heads are overpaid. They are not in the First Division but their salaries have been upgraded whereas other permanent heads, such as the National Librarian, who also are dealt with by administrative decision have not had an upgrading of their salaries.

These upgradings have occurred since December. What is the Government doing in creating these enormous anomalies? The salary structure is so crazy that by this proposal conciliators will be created conciliation commissioners on a salary in excess of $16,000 a year.

Senator Poyser - It is $16,750 a year.

Senaotr MURPHY - My information here is $16,250 a year. Perhaps it could increase further. In 1947, members of Parliament were on approximately the same level as those people. That relativity continued until 1954. The salaries were approximately the same. If this provision is agreed to, our salaries will be exceeded by those of conciliation commissioners by $6,750 a year. I think that it must be apparent to everyone that the position has become absurd. The salaries of First Division, statutory and judicial officers of the Commonwealth and those of members of Parliament and Ministers of the Crown ought to be looked at. There must be some reasonable relativity and some justice across the board.

I am the Leader of the Opposition in this place. I cannot accept the Government's viewpoint that a conciliation commissioner should be receiving more salary than I receive. Let us be plain about it. I cannot accept that a conciliation commissioner should receive $16,250 a year or $16,750 a year while my colleagues, distinguished members in both Houses, are receiving $9,500 a year. That is not right. It is time that the situation was corrected. It is not the right way to correct the injustices that exist, after we in December made clear our point of view that there had to be a proper relativety amongst the salaries of these people, by presenting a Bill of this kind and apparently another Bill which is to be debated. There should be justice right across the board. If the proposed increase were approved other claims for salary increases would come one by one. This increase is not reasonable and it is not just. I do not think it should be accepted by the Senate. I am pleased that not only the members of the Australian Democratic Labor Party and the members of my own Party but also- honourable senators on the Government benches have voiced their opposition to this increase.

Senator TURNBULL (TASMANIA) - And the independents.

Senator MURPHY - And the independent senators. I have no doubt that almost all Government senators have the same view as we have that it is not just or equitable. I thank those honourable senators on the Government side who are indicating that they join with us on this issue. Let the message be carried right through to the Government and its advisers that there should be a reasonable approach and some kind of equity in these matters, and that these dreadful anomalies that exist will not be tolerated. That is the reason why the proposal will be rejected. There ought to be wage justice for the conciliation commissioners.

Senator Marriott - You know perfectly well that the clause will be withdrawn. Why are you continuing to talk?

Senator MURPHY - The honourable senator speaks out sometimes. He should show by his vote what he thinks about these things. I hope that the honourable senator will cross the floor and join honourable senators on this side of the chamber when the vote is taken. On other occasions when the honourable senator has been in an independent frame of mind I have hoped that he would stand up. Wage justice is long overdue, not only in relation to the people I have mentioned but also in relation to the ordinary worker who has just been granted $2 a week by a decision of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. 1 suggest that it aggravates and points up the inequity and injustice of the situation that we should be faced with a proposition that we increase the salaries of conciliators from $9,500 to more than $16,000 and increase the salaries of conciliation commissioners by some $3,000 or $4,000.

Senator Greenwood - The present salary is $1.1,000. You are thinking of the salary paid to members of Parliament.

Senator MURPHY - The AttorneyGeneral informs me that the increase will be from $11,000 to approximately $16,000. This not tolerable. 1 think I was correct in slating that the present salary of the conciliators is $9,500. If the proposed increase is approved all of those conciliators will automatically become conciliation commissioners and their salaries will jump to over $16,000. I think that is the position. The salaries of those people who already arc conciliation commissioners will increase by some $3,000 or $4,000. This is within 3 weeks of a decision which gave to the lower paid workers in the community an increase of $2 a week. In a context in which there are anomalies right across the board, this situation is not tolerable or acceptable.

Clause negatived.

Proposed new clause 12a.

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