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Thursday, 15 October 2015
Page: 7809

Australian Public Service: Workplace Relations


Senator GALLAGHER ( Australian Capital Territory ) ( 14:50 ): My question is to the Minister for Employment, Senator Cash. Can the minister confirm that there has been more industrial action in the Australian Public Service during 2015 than for almost 30 years, including strikes and stop-work action in Australian Border Force, DHS, ABS, CSIRO, the Bureau of Meteorology and the Australian Tax Office? Can the minister confirm that 96 per cent of the public service do not have current enterprise bargaining agreements to replace ones that expired on 1 July 2014—almost 18 months ago.


Senator CASH ( Western Australia Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service, Minister for Employment and Minister for Women ) ( 14:51 ): I think it is a very well-known fact that protected industrial action has been taking place in relation to the Australian Public Service. It is also a fact, though, that the government values public servants and is mindful that they should be well paid—in line, however, with reasonable community expectations.

Senator Lines: Give them a pay rise!

Senator CASH: Unfortunately, Senator Lines does not seem to be able to accept the fact that, since we have been in government, because of the mess left to us by those on the other side we have had to undertake significant budget repair. And what has that meant? The government has been very up-front about the fact that it has required some wage moderation in this bargaining round. The government's offer has been on the table. It is a 1.5 per cent pay increase each year over three years. In return for the 1.5 per cent pay rise, we have asked for productivity gains.

Mr President, I do not know about you, but in the real world where Australians live, in the real world where people open businesses and risk their own money, you do not actually get a pay rise if you do not give a productivity gain. In voter land, when you are out having a coffee at a cafe, when you are having a beer at a pub, when you are having a sandwich at the local sandwich shop, the idea that you would get a pay rise and not have to offset that pay rise with a productivity gain, quite frankly, is unacceptable. So, yes, you are right, Senator Gallagher, there has been protected industrial action. (Time expired)




Senator GALLAGHER (Australian Capital Territory) (14:53): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. How will the minister clean up the mess of dumped minister, Senator Abetz, to ensure public services continue without disruption and industrial peace is reinstated for the 152,000 hard-working public servants who have been denied a fair offer under this government?


Senator CASH (Western AustraliaMinister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service, Minister for Employment and Minister for Women) (14:53): There is no mess to clean up. There is a position that has been placed on the table by this government. As I have already stated, it is a position that is a result of the fiscal irresponsibility by those on the other side, in particular, of course, by the Leader of the Opposition in this place, Senator Wong, in her role as the former finance minister. The deal that is on the table is a 1.5 per cent increase each year over three years and in return we expect productivity gains. Let me tell you—

The PRESIDENT: Pause the clock. A point of order, Senator Cameron?

Senator Cameron: Yes, I rise on a point of order. The minister is continually misleading the Senate. There are no productivity gains; it is cost cutting.

The PRESIDENT: That is not a point of order. Resume your seat, Senator Cameron. Minister, you have the call.

Senator CASH: Mr President, can I say that it is a bit of a shame that we are not being broadcast today, because what Senator Cameron just said, 'It's not productivity gains, it is cost cutting', is one of the reasons that the economy is in the shape that is was when we took over. What you just said shows a blatant disregard for how business runs and how a government should run an economy. (Time expired)

Senator Lines interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Lines, you have interjected on every question today. There will be silence. Senator Gallagher, you have the call.







Senator GALLAGHER (Australian Capital Territory) (14:55): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. By what date will the current APS bargaining round be completed?


Senator CASH (Western AustraliaMinister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service, Minister for Employment and Minister for Women) (14:55): Senator, I think you would understand that it would be completely presumptuous of me to provide an answer to that question because that is obviously up to the individual agencies and the employees.