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Wednesday, 7 March 2001
Page: 25408

Mr FITZGIBBON (6:02 PM) —After that highly politicised speech from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance and Administration in which he made a number of unfounded claims about the government's economic credentials and record on this very day when we learn that the economy has gone into recession, or is bordering on recession, I am pleased to inform the parliamentary secretary that the opposition will be supporting the Remuneration Tribunal Amendment Bill 2000.

The bill will establish a more rigorous framework for the classification of remuneration of public sector principal executive offices. It gives an expanded role to the Remuneration Tribunal and to the Minister for Finance and Administration. The minister is given the power to, one, create principal executive offices by declaration; two, declare the employing body and the classification band or level in the principal executive office classification structure to which the office will be assigned; three, set the commencing remuneration for the office; and, four, assign an office into a particular classification temporarily and/or to identify a level of commencing remuneration which is person specific. We note that, before exercising any of these powers, the minister must seek advice from the Remuneration Tribunal and take that advice into account, and that all ministerial declarations are to be published in the Gazette.

The Remuneration Tribunal's role in this process is enhanced by, one, allowing the tribunal to make recommendations to the minister on the classification and commencing remuneration to apply to each principal executive office; and, two, specifying that the employing body of a principal executive office may determine terms and conditions for the office only in a manner that is consistent with the Remuneration Tribunal's classification structure for principal executive offices or in accordance with specific written advice received from the tribunal.

Currently, it is the Governor-General who has the power to create a principal executive office by regulation, and the Remuneration Tribunal which determines the classification structure for principal executive offices. But neither has the power to determine the level of remuneration. This is done by the governing board and the employing body. We consider the measures set out in the bill to be an improvement on the current system. We note that the arrangements for transparency and accountability are similar to those the opposition agreed to, in the context of the Public Service Bill, for determining the remuneration of secretaries to government departments.

In the context of transparency, the government must now turn its attention to the fuel grants scheme. The Minister for Financial Services and Regulation again today misrepresented me by saying I had told the House that Labor would abolish the scheme. That is simply not true. What I said was that Labor would ensure that the money allocated to the scheme—now somewhat more than the government predicted—goes to the consumers, the people for whom it is intended. This is a scheme that must be revisited by the government. It is clear that the city-country price gap in petrol prices is on the increase, and I suspect that the government will pay for that at the ballot box, come the election this year.