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Tuesday, 6 December 1983
Page: 3329

Mr STEELE HALL(10.02) —One of the interesting points about the Remuneration and Allowances Amendment Bill 1983 is the way in which it adjusts ministerial salaries. It is quite interesting to see that some Ministers are taking a cut in salary while others are going up. Those in the Cabinet are taking some reduction in salary whilst those outside are coming up to a common figure. I suppose that that conjures up a wry smile about how that choice and that decision was made. I notice, however, that the total sum allocated to Ministers of State has increased from $575,000 to $590,000. So whilst the adjustment is not all that expensive in present day monetary terms, nevertheless it is an upward adjustment in the collective total to pay for the wisdom of our respective Ministers.

This Bill simply extends the Remuneration Tribunal's decisions to certain areas which are required by the Constitution. The decision of the Tribunal which affects parliamentarians and First, Second and Third Division officers is already in effect. It has been in effect since 6 October. This Bill, in a sense, is a window into the larger movements of the Tribunal itself which are not encompassed in this Bill but which have now been put into effect. However, the Bill is a symbol of the Government's failure to put effectively in position a prices and incomes policy. It is a failure because it is one more example of the Government's advocacy of full indexation of wages from here on. It is an admission that the Government was unable to follow the previous Fraser Government's decision to put into effect a wages pause-which now stands behind the talk of recovery of this economy-and it is an admission of this Government's failure to grasp the opportunity which the previous Government left to it. Accordingly, I give notice, as I have in writing, that I will be moving an amendment to the second reading in the following terms:

That all words after 'That' be omitted with a view to substituting the following words:

'whilst not declining to give the Bill a second reading, the House is of the opinion that the passage of the Bill would represent an example of the failure of the Government's prices and wages policy'.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. Les Johnson) —Order! I take it that the honourable gentleman is moving his amendment now?

Mr STEELE HALL —Mr Deputy Speaker I am foreshadowing it. The Opposition has consistently argued that full wage indexation will destroy our international competitiveness. I do not think there is much doubt of that because of the Government's own documentation of the economic scene. We have argued that it will ensure that our inflation rate stays high by international standards. That is a position which has been argued at length. We also maintain that it will make it harder for employers to keep their existing staff let alone take on new people and expand industrial and commercial activity.

The Government's own analyses of the situation have confirmed that wage indexation will cost jobs. As I have said, this Bill is another example of the Government's determination to proceed with the full wage indexation program. The National Economic Summit Conference, projection A-an extension of the wages pause to April 1984 followed by partial indexation-projected 100,000 more jobs than projection C, which was a three per cent wage increase in late 1983 and then quarterly wage indexation by 1985-86. Budget Papers have indicated that restoration of business profitability is a necessary condition for sustained economic recovery. Recent leaked projections from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet show that the measure of this task is indeed great. The Department projects unemployment of between 11.1 per cent and 13.1 per cent by 1985-86-a truly disastrous projection for the Australian economy, particularly for young people in this community. This projection means that youth unemployment will exceed one in four. Given those figures it is disappointing indeed to find that this Bill proposes to follow through with that general plan. If the Government really believed in jobs and more jobs it would have done everything in its power to achieve projection C of the Summit instead of arguing before the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission that incapacity to pay was no excuse for payment of less than full indexation.

We accept this decision as part of the general economic plan of the Government. But we should not forget that the Government influences the rules of the game. By failing to use its early popularity in office to argue for a lower wage increase it has lost a grand opportunity to attempt to put this economy right. It has missed a wonderful opportunity to make a positive contribution. In regard to the increase in the salaries of members of parliament there was a report, I think in last Friday's Sydney Morning Herald, of the intention of the New South Wales Government, led by Mr Wran, the Federal President of the Australian Labor Party, in that State to-

Mr Dawkins —Mr Deputy Speaker, this is a fascinating speech but it has precious little to do with the Bill before the House.

Mr STEELE HALL —Mr Deputy Speaker, I am quoting from an article in the Sydney Morning Herald which is headed 'State MPs to receive 5.5 per cent rise'. If that is not related to the salary rise which we are discussing I would find many other debates in this House quite unrelated. I submit that the Government, by advocating full indexation and supporting an across the board increase of 4.3 per cent in wages and salaries, has so activated the enthusiasm of the Labor Party in New South Wales that it wants more. It is greedy. It does not even fit in with the economic plans-

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! I remind the honourable gentleman that we are not discussing New South Wales parliamentary salaries. I ask him to endeavour to be more relevant to the BIll before the House.

Mr STEELE HALL —Mr Deputy Speaker, it certainly is my intention to be relevant. I believe this reflects poorly on the Special Minister of State (Mr Beazley), who is at the table, and his colleagues. The 4.3 per cent lead which they gave is now spreading around Australia. Even this Government's 4.3 per cent recommendation is being exceeded by its colleagues who have power until the next election in New South Wales. We find salaries and allowances for the judiciary in New South Wales have risen by something close to 8 per cent. There has been double dipping in relation to their own rise, plus the 4.3 per cent which has been calculated on top of that. Not only is it disappointing to find this Bill is the culmination of the Government's policy in parliamentary and public service terms of extending the 4.3 per cent, but also it is an example-if one takes into account the New South Wales scene-of how Australia is simply not responding to the Government's 4.3 per cent call. If one looked at industry and commerce or some self-interested group and said 'They are not responding', perhaps this Government might move in and be critical of them. But when it is one of the Government's own which moves outside that guidelines, heaven help Australia when the Government is led by the President of the Australian Labor Party.

It is with a great deal of disappointment that I move my amendment. I would have hoped that at this stage when we are considering a new increase, an additional increase or consideration of an increase for members of parliament we would be considering it in the light of the previous Fraser Government's wage pause. That is not the case. Members opposite may laugh and rant but they will know that this is a public declaration to Australia that we will not discipline wages in this country and that we will choose further unemployment rather than a moderate increase for the entire community. I move:

That all words after 'That' be omitted with a view to substituting the following words:

'whilst not declining to give the Bill a second reading, the House is of the opinion that the passage of the Bill would represent an example of the failure of the Government's prices and wages policy'.

My words on this matter were necessary to sustain the amendment which I hope this House will carry.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. Les Johnson) —Is the amendment seconded?

Mr Spender —Yes, I second the amendment. It is generally supported.