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Tuesday, 29 August 1989
Page: 447


Senator MACKLIN(2.17) —During the debate on 17 August, I said:

Our problem with the statement put out by the Minister for Administrative Services (Mr West) is that it did not justify the increase. No justification was provided in the statement for the increase. We have a mechanism for providing that type of justification-the Remuneration Tribunal. It would have seemed to us sensible and reasonable to go to the Tribunal and argue a case. If the Tribunal had then said on the weight of evidence that the increase should be granted, I am sure there would not have been a debate in this place.

Later on, I said:

We would accept whatever decision the Tribunal made because the inquiry would be done in an open, fair and reasonable manner. Our concern is not that they have got $30,000 and we have got $9,000 but that no justification whatsoever has been offered.

Unlike the press reports, that is what I said on 17 August and I reiterate it today. Quite frankly, this lack of justification has left us in a very vulnerable position with regard to the current airline dispute. The Government is basically arguing that what the pilots ought to be doing is going through the correct tribunals and the proper systems. I think that is a reasonable position. How can we then, in relation to this, seek to go outside the system at this time? Quite frankly, I expected a statement today from the Manager of Government Business in the Senate (Senator Robert Ray) that the increase would be withdrawn. It is simply untenable to argue that members of Parliament ought to be granted, without inquiry, without reference to the proper tribunal or to anybody, an increase of an astonishing amount-in fact, $3m, as Senator Lewis has just said, which has probably been ripped out of the parliamentary appropriations and which could have been directed elsewhere. Although we have not gone through the proper system to obtain an increase, we say to the pilots, who are looking for a 30 per cent increase, that they must go through the proper tribunal. This approach is really not tenable.

I expected the Government, in an attempt to hold the line with regard to the wage situations in Australia, to withdraw from this as gracefully and with as much dignity as it could manage. However, it has decided to push ahead. I am not sure what anybody in the community can now make of the Government's position with regard to the airline strike. All members of Parliament have been put in a very difficult situation. We have all read the letters in the newspapers and elsewhere pointing to this. Representatives of the Australian Federation of Air Pilots have also referred to this move. It looks as though the Government intends to press ahead. This measure has been included in Appropriation Bill (No. 1), which, under the Constitution, the Senate is not able to amend.

But I reiterate that our concern is that at this time and in this situation we ought go through the proper tribunal and discuss and argue for these increases, no matter what they are, in a fair and open way.

When one looks back at the history of the various appropriations for senators and members, one finds that this Government has been quite mindful of the need for adequate facilities for members and senators. I do not wish to be drawn into that particular debate or even to be seen to be supporting some of the comments that Senator Lewis made with regard to that; the comments from my Party are specifically and entirely directed to the mode by which this occurred. We believe that at this time the only appropriate way of dealing with this matter is to take it to the Remuneration Tribunal. I hope that Senator Ray in response will recognise the validity of that. I believe that at this point that would be the best way of dealing with the matter. If there is a case, which Senator Ray argued strongly there was on 17 August, when we last discussed this matter, I am sure that, given his oratorial skills, he can carry that debate with the Tribunal. If he cannot carry it with the Tribunal, we will leave that aside: it is not something that the Tribunal feels is justified on this occasion. But proceeding in the way proposed does not leave us with a great deal of dignity in confronting the move currently being made by the pilots for a 30 per cent pay increase. The Government, quite frankly, is not left with many arguments when it says to the pilots, `You go through the proper tribunals; we however, will simply give ourselves a 30 per cent increase in our postage allowance'.