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Thursday, 2 December 1971
Page: 4006

Mr CLYDE CAMERON (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The Opposition will support and vote for this Bill but I shall make some comment which I hope the Government will note because when another Bill is introduced next year, the year after or whenever it becomes necessary to readjust the salaries of these statutory offices the Opposition will, I hope, take the same note of what I think are shortcomings in the presentation of this Bill and will expect the government of the day, if it does not do it without prodding by the then Opposition, to see that a clear statement is given of the existing salaries compared with the proposed salaries so that the Parliament will have an idea of what actually has occurred. In this Bill, in some instances the proposed increased salaries are tied directly to one of the levels of the Second Division of the Commonwealth Public Service and it is easy to follow those increases but, on the other hand, it is not so easy to follow the reasoning and logic of the Gov.enment's decision in fixing particular salary ranges. I take on example - I have not had time to do more than look at one, and it is not necessary to look at more than one - to make my point.

It is proposed to increase the salary of an ordinary conciliation commissioner appointed under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act to SI 6,250. the present salary being SI 1,850. The proposed increase is considerably more than $4,000 a year. This breaks away from the general pattern of most other increases which range between 14 per cent and 15 per cent. The House should take note of what has happened to the salary range payable to conciliation commissioners. When the office of conciliation commissioner was established in 1947 it carried a salary of £1,500, the government of the day believing that the current parliamentary salary of f 1,500 was an appropriate salary for a conciliation commissioner. The government consciously tied the conciliation commissioner's salary to the then parliamentary salary of £1,500, and the salary remained at that figure until 1950. It also happened, by coincidence, that in 1947 the lowest level officers of the Second Division of the Commonwealth Public Service were being paid a salary of £1,539. When the position of conciliation commissioner was introduced the salary payable for that position was virtually identical with the salary of a private member of the Parliament and with the salary paid to the lowest level of the Second Division of the Commonwealth Public Service.

On 4th May 1950 Second Division officers had their salary increased to £1,856 but the salary of the conciliation commissioner remained at £1,500, which meant that it was lagging by £356 when compared with the lowest level of the Second Division. In December 1950 when the conciliation commissioners had an increase of £300, bringing their salary to £1,800, officers on the lowest level of the Commonwealth Public Service Second Division were given a salary of £2,933. Here was an example of the Second Division officers leaping ahead of the conciliation commissioners by £1,133. On 7th June 1950, the conciliation commissioners were lifted to £3,000 and the Second Division officers received a small rise, bringing their total salary to £2,957. This gave them a salary less than that of the conciliation commissioners. In December 1956, the Second Division officers - when I refer to the Second Division, I will be talking about the lowest level of that Division - received an increase bringing their salary to £3,500. Nothing was done for the conciliation commissioners; they remained at £3,000 until 1960 when they received an increase of £875, giving them a salary of £3,875. This meant that the conciliation commissioners had leapt ahead of the Second Division officers by £375.

In December 1963 the Second Division officers received an increase bringing their new salary to £4,313. However, because the conciliation commissioners remained on £3,875, the Second Division officers were placed £438 ahead of the conciliation commissioners. So, on 25th June 1964 the conciliation commissioners received an increase, bringing their salary to £4,700. The Second Division officers received a small increase lifting their salary to £4,365 which meant that they were then £335 behind the conciliation commissioners. In December 1964 the conciliation commissioners found themselves with a salary that was still unchanged, as they had received previously in the same year an increase. However, the Second Division officers, ever alert to any changes that appeared tn put them .at a disadvantage with comparable levels, were able to convince the Arbitrator that the salary rate they should receive was £4,802, thus giving them £102 more than the conciliation commissioners. Then, on 6th July 1967, by which time we were in the dollar era, the Second Division officers received a further small increase to bring them to $9,657, while the conciliation commissioners were still receiving $9,400. On 7th November 1968 the salary of the conciliation commissioners was lifted to $11,850, which is their current rate. The Second Division officers' salaries were increased to $9,728. On 14th January 1971 the Second Division when to $12,531 and, at present, it is proposed that they should move to $14,375. However, this time the conciliation commissioners are to have their salaries increased from $11,850 to $16,250.

I am not here attempting to identify where the error lies. I am not here attempting to identify the fault or to say whether, for example, the Second Division officers should have been paid more than the $14,375 or whether the conciliation commissioners should have been paid less than the §16,250 that it is now proposed to give them. All 1 want to say is that high ranking Public Service and statutory officers in the Commonwealth of Australia are no different from any other section of the community. When they see the wage structure being distorted by maladjustments - and that is what these must be - it is certain that they will demand a restoration of relativity, lt would surprise me greatly if the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association does not very shortly make an application to the Commonwealth Public Service Arbitrator for an increase on the recent increase of 15 per cent to bring the salary of the lowest level Second Division officer from $14,375 to $16,250. If J were the Secretary of the ACOA, I would feel that ] had an answerable case for the salaries of the lowest level officers in the Second Division of the Public Service to be lifted to $ 1 6,250, because it is possible to go back as far as 1947 - 24 years ago - and follow through the rate which the Second Division officers received. It was always a little above or a very little below - usually a little above or sometimes well above - the salaries paid to the conciliation commissioners. They are entitled to feel that they have been badly treated by the Commonwealth Public Service Arbitrator in that they received only a miserable 15 per cent increase, or something like $2,000, when the conciliation commissioners received an increase of $4,400.

The wage structure of Commonwealth Public Service officers cannot continue to be distorted vis-a-vis that of the statutory officers in this way. The Government will only buy trouble for itself. What is necessary is a Commonwealth Public Service Board review of all of the top echelon rates in the Public Service as against the rates applicable to the statutory officers. Where the Board finds that there is a distortion, as so obviously there is in the rates to which I have referred, it must be remedied. Unless this is done, the Government will buy for the Commonwealth Public Service and for itself a lot of trouble. I have had time to look at only one case. Perhaps it is the only one where such a distortion can be found. I shall say no more about this case but I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard the table from which I read so that it can be studied.

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