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Tuesday, 6 December 1983
Page: 3332

Mr WHITE(10.18) —Mr Deputy Speaker, further to your ruling on the amendment, I would also think, as the Special Minister of State (Mr Beazley) has said, that because, as I understand it, parliamentary salaries flow from the Remuneration and Allowances Amendment Bill, although it is not directly relevant --

Mr Ruddock —It is the result of the Remuneration Tribunal decision.

Mr Beazley —And the Government's acceptance of it.

Mr WHITE —In view of that, what I have to say, I believe, is entirely relevant. This wage rise is a result of the national wage case. The Minister, in his second reading speech states:

The Commission enunciated principles of wage determination which provide for a 4.3 per cent national wage adjustment and, in the future, the adjustment of wages on a six-monthly basis in line with movements in the consumer price index, unless the Commission is persuaded to the contrary.

I and other speakers on this side of the House take issue with what amounts to full support by the Government for full indexation both now and in the future. The reality is that if the Government does not support full wage indexation we will be faced with the busting of the prices and incomes accord and industrial chaos. But if it does continue to support full wage indexation, it means that we will, quite obviously, have inflation in the months and years to come.

As far as parliamentary salaries are concerned, I appreciate as much as anyone else the necessity to pay members of parliament properly. It is important that an adequate salary be paid to attract competent people to this place. There is no surer way in the long term to destroy the parliamentary process than by failing properly to pay members of parliament. If general wage levels rise throughout the community MPs should not fall behind, nor should anyone else for that matter. The fact is that the 4.3 per cent increase we are debating tonight is unjustified in terms of the general wage level in this country. It has come about because of the Government's support for full indexation in the recently completed national wage case. We have only to see what the economic predictions leaked from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet in the last week show for the future in terms of wage levels and inflation.

I mention briefly a couple of other things. Firstly, I congratulate the Government on the measure it introduced earlier this year to eliminate what is known as the merry widow clause from the parliamentary remuneration package. I, and I hope most other members, believe that while it has existed for some time in that package it is totally unjustified. I am particularly glad to see that if a member takes commutation-although that has been amended also to some extent- his widow is not entitled to double dip into the system. Secondly, I think we must try in the future to get some relativity between wages and the superannuation package received by members of parliament. I believe it is very important to get this right because the reality is that the superannuation of public servants and parliamentarians in this country is becoming an affront to the majority of Australians.

Mr Donald Cameron —The Army pension as well.

Mr WHITE —One of my colleagues mentions that I get an Army pension. That is no secret, and many other people get other remuneration. I am talking about the great bulk accruing to people who leave the Public Service after a number of years of service and to members of parliament. Whether we recognise it or not, it is becoming an affront to most people in this country. I strongly advocate that as this sum continues to rise we get some balance between a higher salary, which is necessary in my view to attract competent people to this place, and reduced superannuation benefits.

Mr Hollis —You can always refuse it.

Mr WHITE —Some of us might not last long enough to get it. In regard to another remuneration matter, I suggest also that it is time we looked at the salaries of shadow Ministers in this parliament. Shadow Ministers in many ways work just as hard as Ministers. Certainly they do not have the same responsibility, but they work very hard. Again, if we are to attract competent people to this place and encourage them to stay on through a sometimes long period in opposition- in the case of the Australian Labor Party a very long time-there is a logical case for paying shadow Ministers an appropriate salary. I hope that the Government will address itself to that matter. Others have mentioned what has happened in New South Wales in the past week. It is no use saying, as the Government is saying, that that is a matter for New South Wales. The Premier of New South Wales is the President of the Australian Labor Party. I would have thought that, as Premier and President, it was up to him to set an example for this country in wage restraint. Why should members of the New South Wales Parliament set a standard which is not achievable by other workers in this country under the wages accord? This is encouraging renegade unions such as the Builders Labourers Federation in their excessive demands. We have seen that in the past. Of course, a 5.5 per cent increase in the salaries of New South Wales parliamentarians will only encourage such unions further. I was very pleased to see that today the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Willis), with some embarrassment, condemned members of the New South Wales Parliament for voting that increase for themselves.

I put this final point to the Government: There exists in the present provision for superannuation for Federal members of parliament an opportunity for people who come from State parliaments to pay into the Federal scheme the amount they were paid out when they left the State parliament. It could be said that there is some logic in that, that a person who goes from one parliament to another should not be disadvantaged. The point is that a person can come into place as I did and be offered an opportunity to buy back three years service for some $9, 000. If I had come from business and had availed myself of the opportunity through the same superannuation scheme to buy back those three years it would have cost like something like three times as much. I ask the Government and this Parliament: Is it right that a person coming from State parliament has such a considerable advantage over someone who comes to this Parliament from the business community? I suggest to the House that it is totally wrong. This is another matter that I ask the Government to look at seriously. In summary, I again make the point that we are debating this Bill tonight because of the full wage indexation decision handed down in the national wage case, resulting from the Government's full support for indexation. That decision will lead to massive trouble in the future.