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Thursday, 11 May 1972
Page: 2497

Mr FOSTER (Sturt) - The Minister for Labour and National Service - and I note that he is back in the chamber - said in his second reading speech:

The House will note that the Bill contains provision for an increase in the salaries for the commissioners. I have no doubt that this is provision will be supported by all members of this House as a warranted recognition of the valuable service given to the community by the holders of that office.

The Minister must have been fooling himself if he thought that all members of the House would clap their hands with glee and say: 'For they are jolly good fellows; give them back pay of 2 grand and a rise of $84 a week'. The Minister issued a Press statement on the 5th of this month applauding the decision of these gentlemen that the wage of $46 a week would go up by a lousy, miserable $4.50.

Mr Jacobi - Fifty cents over the poverty line.

Mr FOSTER - No, Sir. On the latest figures the poverty line stands at $54-odd.

If the Minister tonight saw the television programmes dealing with poverty in this country, he would not be applauding the decision of the bench. He would not be giving the commissioners a swift handback of $2,000 plus, which amounts to a 37 per cent increase.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury) - Order! I ask the honourable member to relate his remarks to the clause.

Mr FOSTER - This is what the Bill provides. This is what I am talking about. I am referring to that particular section which covers increases-

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN - Order! The honourable member will not shout down the Chair when the Chair is addressing him.

Mr FOSTER - I am addressing the Committee.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member will remain silent for a moment. I am asking the honourable member to relate his remarks to clause 12 of the Bill which deals with salaries and allowances of commissioners. I call the honourable member for Sturt.

Mr FOSTER - I wish, Mr Deputy Chairman, that you would listen in the morning to the Hansard tape of these proceedings and relate what I have said to what you have just said to me. It is getting almost intolerable.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- I point out to the honourable member that he is getting pretty close to reflecting on the Chair. I warn him that I will not tolerate a reflection on the Chair.

Mr Webb - I rise on a point of order.

Mr FOSTER - Let him go on. In speaking to this Bill, Mr Deputy Chairman-


Mr Webb - I will take my point of order, Mr Deputy Chairman. Why do you not as the Chairman of this Committee point out to the honourable member where he is getting away from the Bill. Do your job properly.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member will withdraw that reflection on the Chair.

Mr Webb - I will withdraw it but I am asking you to do your job.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! I am asking the honourable member to withdraw that reflection on the Chair.

Mr Webb - I have withdrawn it.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- I call the honourable member for Sturt.

Mr FOSTER - Mr Deputy Chairman, in speaking to the Bill and in speaking to that particular clause - I repeat, Sir, in speaking to that particular clause - it is an intolerable situation when the words written in the clause spell out by way of percentages, Mr Deputy Chairman, a 37i per cent increase for people who do not need it and who are not entitled to it on the basis of the community standard that this Government has forced upon wage and salary earners in this country. Mr Deputy Chairman, I say this to you: The Minister talks of wage inflation. Can I be convinced, Mr Deputy Chairman, that the $2,000 back pay that these people are to receive, will go into circulation to the benefit of the economy of this country? Do not push that down my neck because they will not spend a penny. The only way, Mr Deputy Chairman, that this money will be returned to circulation is when they die and it is given back to the Commonwealth by way of death duties. I can see no other way in which this can be done.

Mr Deputy Chairman,I will comply with your ruling that I must address the Chair. It appears that every other word must be the Chairman. However, Mr Deputy Chairman, I make the observation that not long ago this Committee was addressed for 10 minutes by another honourable member and not once did that honourable member mention the Chairman. I just make that casual observation.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member does not need to mention the Chairman as long as he directs his remarks through the Chair. That is the point.

Mr FOSTER - What else do I have to do? Oh brother! There is, Mr Deputy Chairman, reflected in this clause the thoughts and the feelings of a government so long in office that it represents the capitalist society, nothing else, and it sees fit to criticise people by placing this clause in this Bill. Honourable members on this side of the House have said quite bluntly that this Bill is a discriminating Bill. It discriminates between those who have to work for a living and those who live off others. The people who are referred to in the clause we are discussing could not stand and watch the fellow in the automotive industry - whom I would describe as being nothing more than industrial fodder, Mr Deputy Chairman, when one considers the amount of take home pay he receives in a week - screwing on the same kind of nut and doing up the same kind of bolt for 4 hours a day, let alone do it for 8 hours a day for the pittance which is given to him.

I am sorry that I have to stand here during the Committee stage of the Bill, Mr Deputy Chairman, and endeavour to point this out to the Government and to a Minister who thinks nothing of grabbing almost $40,000 a year of the taxpayers' money and who wants to force through a Bill of this nature the purpose of which is to deny a proper and just salary to the majority members of the community.

Mr Cope - Is that tax free?

Mr FOSTER - They receive tax free allowances. I have not yet mentioned judges, who receive a higher salary than does the Minister. Just where are we going as a responsible Parliament when we see people applauding the decisions of the commissioners and judges and the court generally and applauding the decision that limits a wage increase to $2 a week and which allows a maximum wage to go only to a figure that is still below the poverty line? In the last 48 hours a Liberal Party Minister in the Victorian Parliament - in the State from which the Minister comes - has set that figure at $54. My opinion, Mr Deputy Chairman, is that the Government ought to be condemned forever and a day on this particular clause. Would you allow me to transgress for a second, Mr Deputy Chairman? This afternoon we heard that millions of dollars were to be given away on educational matters because the Prime Minister knows that otherwise his popularity rating will be down further tomorrow. That is why the announcement was made hurriedly in this chamber today.

There is nothing in this particular clause or in any measure that has been passed since I became a member of this Parliament that has not been done because of political expediency or that has not been done to buy a vote and buy the electorate, because most of the electorate has been condemned over at least the last 3 years. Mr Deputy Chairman, I would like the Minister to stand in this chamber and tell us how he can say: 'To hell with the worker. He is not getting any sort of an increase at all beyond $2'. I would like him to stand in this place and justify the increase in excess of 37 per cent which people who are receiving $12,000 a year are going to be given, to bring them up to $16,000, plus back pay, plus free transport and what have you. You stand in this chamber, Mr Minister, and justify that 37 per cent increase and in doing so try to tell the trade union leaders and everybody else that they do not have a damned right to go into a court and argue a case this year, in conformity with the lousy Press statement which you gave out only a few days ago. You are not worth your salt if you are not prepared to do that at this point of time.

Mr Daly - I raise a point of procedure, Mr Deputy Chairman. It has been the traditional practice of this Parliament for the adjournment to be moved on Wednesday and Thursday at 11 o'clock so that members may speak on the adjournment. I would like to ask the Minister whether he intends to follow that procedure tonight.

Mr Lynch - I cannot answer the question at this stage. I understand that discussions have been taking place between the leaders of both the Government and the Opposition. It was my original understanding that they had agreed that the Bill would be taken through tonight. Having regard to time, that clearly is an impossibility. The Government accepts its responsibility to allow honourable members adequate time to make their point at the Committee stage but I must say, without any sense of offence whatsoever, that it would seem to me that a number of honourable members have been making the same point time after time on some matters upon which both the Opposition and the Government are in agreement. The Government believes that this Bill should be put through not later than Tuesday evening. I am more than conscious of the fact that the proceedings so far have been delayed considerably for reasons which are not in the context of what I was given to understand.

Mr Daly - In view of what the Minister has said and in view of the fact that we are going to be expected to sit here all night, I move, in accordance with established practice:

That progress be reported.

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