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Thursday, 11 May 1972
Page: 2510

Mr CONNOR (Cunningham) - The honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) raised the question as to why the increase in salaries to commissioners is to be back dated. The answer is a very' simple one. It is to be back, dated 6 months because it is almost 6 months for the post-dating of the award which was recently rendered. A very' Substantial amount of money was saved. The Government's increasing by about $4,500 the salaries of these commissioners will be easily the best investment that it has ever made in granting salary increases because it is a part - the third part- one might say - of a master plan by this Government to obtain a wage freeze without a price freeze or price control. The pattern is very clear. For years this Government has consistently used every form of pressure and intimidation that it could on the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Perhaps one of the most notable and outrageous instances of that was when the present Prime Minister (Mr McMahon), who was then the Treasurer, openly attacked Mr Justice Kirby at a dinner given by the Metal Trades Employers Association in Sydney, and he was suitably rebuked. Last year in the report of the President of the Commission, again Mr Justice Kirby, a further rebuke to the Government appeared. The report stated that if the Government really wanted moderation and to have its case heard it should put facts forward and not try to hector the Commission.

The statistics for the period covered by the last wage judgment constitute the outrage of which the whole trade union movement today complains. They reveal a remarkable situation. Even the rotten, inadequate and inaccurate statistics of this Government reveal what has happened.

There is a substantial lag in the Government's figures, and they are rigged. If honourable member's want evidence of that let them look at the consumer price index, in which the sole regimen as far as the people are concerned is made up of potatoes and onions. Fruit does not exist. Interest rates are not taken into account. Rent rackets somehow do not seem to be reflected in it. The figures for that period show a 7 per cent increase in living costs but there has been only a 2.3 per cent increase in wages. That is the difference. That is the Government's double standard. This situation will continue because there is roaring inflation in Australia today and it will not be merely a matter of a 7 per cent increase as in the period covered by the wage judgment; there will be an increase of at least 10 per cent. It is a matter of argument amongst economists today as to whether the true increase in living costs in the 12 months that was the subject of the last wage decision was not nearer to 11 per cent or 12 per cent.

This Government talks of wage moderation. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Lynch) - I am glad to see that he is back in the chamber - threw out a challenge to us with regard to our attitude to the salaries of the higher paid members of the Public Service. Let him give us his stand and let him answer the lower paid members of the Public Service who want to get a flow on from the 9 per cent increase given in the State Electricity Commission decision in Victoria. The Government is determined to quarantine that increase. Let him consider that stand by the Government and equate it against the action taken in regard to the group for whom he is trying to pitch to get a few miserable votes. As I said, a wage freeze without a price freeze is the fixed policy of this Government, and it will achieve that end. It is snide tactics on the part of this Government that it brought on this Bill on a day when the proceedings of this Parliament were not being broadcast. It did this quite deliberately. It hoped to get the Bill through in one day because the sooner it can get it over and swept under the carpet the better for it.

As the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) pointed out, clause 13, which it is the intention of this

Government to ram through the Parliament tonight, contains the package deal. That is the clause in which it will be found that the whole system of arbitration and wage fixation is frozen, because new factors are to be introduced. The riding instructions will be - this is the price that will be paid and this is where the Commissioners will be brought to heel - that in future they must consider the state of the national economy and the likely effects on that economy of the award that is made in the proceedings. What the statistics show and what the economic factors are will go by the board. This Government arbitrarily and quite deliberately wants to destory every concept of arbitration. The thing that it fears most - and it is on the increase - is collective bargaining. The Government wants to kill it; to nip it in the bud. Clause 13 provides the master plan, the package deal, by which this is to be done. We will fight it bitterly. We will fight it here; we will fight it in the workshops; we will fight it by every means at our disposal.

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