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Tuesday, 30 May 1972
Page: 3272

Mr DALY (Grayndler) - I second the amendment. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has outlined clearly the history of this legislation. Let me reiterate it and say that it provides for increased salaries for certain statutory office holders. As the Leader of the Opposition has stated, an amendment covering this legislation was carried in the Senate in 1971. Now the Government proposes to go through the sham of presenting to this Parliament legislation which it knows will not be supported in another place. What is more, the Government is on this occasion making the legislation covering the statutory office holders retrospective to 4th November 1971. Retrospectivity in legislation has been opposed vigorously by this Government from time to time. Many a time in this Parliament the Opposotion has moved that increases of pensions be backdated to 1st July, and just as adamantly the Government has lined up and voted against a 50c pension increase being backdated. Today it is seeking to backdate increases of $84 a week, giving to the occupants of those positions $2,000 in a bonus - a total under this legislation of about $80,000 or $90,000. And this is the Government that refuses to backdate increases of a miserable 50c a week in pensions.

In addition, to make certain that these statutory office holders are in line with the workers to whom was granted a $2 a week increase in the national wage case, they are to receive not only increased benefits at the rate of $84 a week, or $4,400 per annum but also are to be given $104 a year, backdated to the effective date, 1st June 1972. I hope that when legislation in respect of social welfare benefits is before this Parliament the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) will remind his colleagues that those who can well afford to put up with the hardship of living on the salaries that they receive today are being granted huge increases which are to be backdated. Everybody knows that this legislation is doomed in another place. Senator Withers, Senator Laucke and another Liberal senator have announced that they will not support it in that chamber, so why has the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) brought it into this Parliament tonight? As a matter of fact, it is just sham fighting, because the Government knows full well that it cannot be passed and is endeavouring to curry favour with the public servants and Public Service organisations by saying that Labor is stopping their salary increases. As the Leader of the Opposition said, nothing is further from the truth. The Liberal senators in another place whom I have mentioned know that that is not the case because, for the same reasons as the Australian Labor Party, they will vote against these proposals.

We believe that the increases are given to some who might well carry on with the salaries they are getting while others, much in need of them, are denied them. I refer to the middle section of the Public Service. Let us look at the struggling people we are assisting tonight under this Government that practises wage restraint. The salary of the Chairman of the Australian Commission on Advanced Education goes from $18,973 to $22,012, the Deputy Chairman of the Australian Universities Commission goes from $16,528 to $19,148, the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board goes from $17,947 to $20,810, the full time Member (other than the Chairman) of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board goes from $15,370 to $17,792, the Commissioner for Employees' Compensation goes from $14,727 to $17,043, the Chairman of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission goes from about $17,000 to $19,000, the Senior Commissioners go from about $12,000 to $17,000- all backdated to 4th November. The salary of the Director of the Australian Institute of Criminology goes from $15,370 to $17,792, the Commissioner of the Export Payments Insurance Corporation goes from about $17,000 to about $20,000; and so it goes on right down the line of these office holders.

Is it any wonder that even the Liberals in another place - hard to move as they are - have rebelled against this legislation? That is why the Labor Party has moved the amendment. It knows full well that the legislation is unjustified at this time of wage restraint. Every day the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) has been telling us that there has to be wage restraint. Do honourable members remember what he said when the Arbitration Commission gave workers a $2 pay rise? He said:

The Aribtration Commission's national wage case decision was responsible and would have long term benefits for the Australian community. By exercising moderation the Commission has given the economy a real chance to make some headway against inflation.

To prove his sincerity he is increasing the salaries of office holders by huge amounts, at the same time adding that $2 a week to the salaries of those people.

If the Government is fair dinkum on this issue and not sham fighting, why does it not bring forward the Salaries Adjustment Bill 1971 which has been on the notice paper since 8th December 1971? I will tell honourable members why. It is because the increases that I have mentioned fade into insignificance beside those in the Salaries Adjustment Bill where salaries rise from $22,000 to $29,250. In other words, they go up $6,000 and $7,000 per annum. This is the Government that is preaching wage restraint that has brought this Bill before the Parliament and criticises the Labor Party for opposing it. As you know, Mr Speaker, the Government realises that at this time this measure is a complete contradiction of its stated policy of wage restraint It has intervened in every wage case in order to stop wage increases. In the national wage case the Government went to the court and said that workers were not entitled to increases in wages because increases were causing inflation. The waterside workers have just received a 35-hour week and certain wage increases by negotiation. The present Government has announced that it will intervene and upset the agreement if it possibly can when it comes before the court for ratification.

In other words, there is one law for those who have very little to live on, whether they be public servants or others, and there is another law for those who have the influence, the power and the money to carry on and make ends meet. The Labor Party believes that increases, in the Public Service and in other places, should go to those that need them. If it is good enough for people who have families to keep and who have to do so on $52 a week, to receive a $2 a week increase it is good enough for the tall poppies to make their contribution by taking significantly less at a time of wage restraint. The introduction of this legislation is scandalous in the extreme. That is why we on this side of the Parliament reject it and have moved the amendment.

It would be bad enough if that was all the increase that was given, but every one of these office holders under the legislation that the Government wants to have passed receives travelling expenses. They have the use of aeroplanes and Commonwealth cars and they have national superannuation schemes. These are the people to whom the Government is toadying. Is it not tragic that at the expense of the vast majority of public servants and others a small section of the community is receiving huge increases running into thousands of dollars per annum. What is given in increases to judges amounts to $6,000, $7,000 and $8,000 a year extra each time. When 64 per cent of the work force receive less than the average weekly earnings of about $90 a week some people are receiving increases of between $20 to $80 a week. When the men who fix the wages are to be given increases of $4,400 or $84 a week and some workers who come before them get only $2, is it any wonder that public opinion is turning against this Government for its wage restraint against not those who have money but those who really need it in the lower income group.

How do honourable members opposite justify the increases that they are suggesting at a time of wage restraint? Every speech made by the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) in this Parliament tells the people of Australia that wages are causing inflation. We on this side of the Parliament are expected to take this point of view, we are told, because it is in the national interest. Did you ever hear of anything more hypocritical than the Prime Minister coming to this Parliament and telling the nation that we had to have wage restraint, that recommended salary increases from $9,500 a year for members of this Parliament were to be reduced by 26 per cent because the nation could not afford to pay them, and the next day bringing in legislation giving increases of $6,000 to $7,000 a year to public servants. Not one cent was taken off. I think that is complete hypocrisy.

The people deserve the government they get. They have a Ministry that is overpaid and they have back bench members not worth as much as Qantas flight stewards. If the Government has that kind of supporters the people of this country deserve the government that they have. But why does the Government recommend percentage reductions on one side and the next minute say that public servants and others who are getting $22,000 to $29,000 a year must make no contribution whatever? This is a phony government; it is not sincere. The people it wants to see get the incomes in this country are those in the $20,000 to $30,000 wage group. Those on $52 to $60 or $70 a week who are struggling to keep body and soul together are given nothing by this Government because the Government believes they are entitled to only $2 a week. I wonder what the pensioners must think - pensioners who received miserable increase of 50c and 75c a week from this Government.

A pensioner is expected to live on $18.25 a week when the Government is giving a $84 a week increase to people now getting about $12,500 or $13,000 per annum. What must pensioners in the community think when judges are given $6,000 and $7,000 a year increase by the Government, when public servants' salaries are to be increased by up to $7,000 and when this will take them not to $10,000 or $11,000 per annum but to $29,000 and $30,000 in some instances? When the maximum wage is about $52 a week, is it not scandalous to think that the Government will bring in legislation of this kind? So far as I know the address of the Prime Minister is the Lodge. When he goes home to sleep, eat, work, talk and enjoy his family life at his home in Bellevue Hill they give him $42 a day to sit there. Here is a Government that at this stage is asking workers to take $2 while the Prime Minister gets about $290 a week to be at home each day of the week - by way of travelling expenses alone. The Prime Minister came in and said that he would not take a salary increase unless it gave him $1,000 a week. He would be dear at a quarter of that price. Yet, today we are told $2 a week is plenty for some people to have. The salary of the Treasurer of this country, who preaches constantly in this Parliament on wage restraint, some time ago was recommended to be $34,650 and he would not take a penny less. When we rejected that proposal in the interests of justice and as a contribution to the economy and the stability of nation, he said: 'Unless I get the $34,650 I will not support the legislation'. These are the people who speak of wage restraint today and who ask the workers to take less.

When we on this side of the Parliament oppose this legislation honourable members opposite say that we are stopping public servants from getting the flow-on. Nothing is further from the truth. What the Labor Party objects to is that a small select group in the Public Service is getting all of the benefits from this Government - the conciliation commissioners and others - while a huge number of public servants at lower levels are refused increases in keeping with what they should get to keep body and soul together. We on this side of the Parliament realise that large sections of the community - 64 per cent was mentioned by me a moment ago - exist on levels below the average income and they in turn can get only $2 a week when their case goes before the national wage fixing authority. To make it worse, this Government goes in and says: They are not entitled to more'. Is it any wonder that the people are fed up with the Government and believe that we are right on this side of the Parliament in opposing this legislation.

I do not want to detain the House long and I do not want to re-hash what has been said again and again. This legislation has been debated so often that everybody almost knows it off by heart. But' the Government has proved that it is sham fighting by bringing this matter in, again, knowing full well that it cannot pass its own members in the other place; knowing full well that sections of this legislation have been amended in. another place and if consistency counts the legislation cannot possibly pass through that place. It knows full well also that it must try to get it through because it has put the Conciliaion Commissioners' increases not only in this legislation but also in the Conciliation and Arbitration. Bill. The Government missed on the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill but has brought these increases back under the statutory offices legislation. That is a subterfuge which everybody in. this Parliament should realise is being put over by this Government in an endeavour to compromise the Opposition or to put this matter forward on a take it or basis.

I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition. I hope it will be carried in this place. Whether it is carried or not I know full well that across the hall the amendment will be carried by the members of that place who realise the value of the arguments put up by this side of the Parliament. I just say to the Government that it is nearly time that it woke up; it is nearly time that it gave wage justice to everyone in the community from the lowest to the highest. But if the Government extends its patronage at the expense of those who want it, it cannot expect the people on this side of the Parliament to support it because our policy is to support those in need and to give to them the money necessary to maintain their families in security and happiness in this age of inflation under Liberal-Country Party governments.

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