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Thursday, 13 April 1972
Page: 1081

Senator SIR KENNETH ANDERSON - On 23rd February 1972 Senator Wriedt asked me a question without notice concerning income distribution. The Treasurer has advised me as follows:

I am not aware that the available statistics on income distribution show that there is 'an increasing disparity between people on high incomes and those on low incomes'.

In any case, in Australia, award wages and salaries are determined by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and the State arbitral tribunals, in the light of submissions made to them. The Commonwealth would not wish to undermine the independence of these authorities. The Commonwealth can, of course, seek to influence the Arbitration Commission through its submissions in the public interest to major arbitral cases.

The Commonwealth could, for example, seek to influence the Commission to award increases which would tend to reduce the gap between low and high wages and salaries. However, in the long run, such a course would mean decreasing incentives to those obtaining higher incomes on the grounds of work, value, including considerations of training or higher education and bearing of heavy responsibilities.

Nevertheless, in recognition of the special difficulty confronting minimum wage earners, the Commonwealth, while opposing any increase in the total wage, in its recent national wage submission said that it did not set its face against any increase in the minimum wage but added that any increase should not be of a magnitude which would have serious repercussions on the economy or which would spark off agitation for the increase in total wage rates to restore relativities.

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