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Friday, 26 May 1972
Page: 2197

Senator LITTLE (Victoria) - I wish to indicate that the Australian Democratic Labor Party will not support clause 12. I do not want to re-state some of the criticisms that have already been stated; in fact we do not completely agree with some of those criticisms. I do not know whether it can be suggested that in this field of endeavour this increase represents a handout, or that the issue should be confused by forgetting all about the principle of the margin for skill in this area in which there has been no alteration for 4 years, or by making a comparison with completely different areas in which other increases have occurred during that period. I think that would be unfair and the exercise would be irrelevant to the proposal before us.

If we look at this clause objectively, we will see that obviously the people affected are in a category of people covered by a Bill which came before the Parliament late last year. In its wisdom, the Parliament decided to reject the increases that were contained in that legislation. It would be inconsistent now to elevate these people out of that category and yet leave the rest of the people in precisely the same position. I think we all know the circumstances in which the previous legislation was rejected in this chamber. An independent inquiry had looked into the salaries of members of Parliament. When the result of the inquiry was made known and the recommendations were brought before the responsible people in the Parliament it was decided that, more or less as a gesture, the recommended rates should be tampered with and reduced. At that time the proposition as a whole was rejected by the members of the Parliament. They argued that if it was good enough to set an example to everybody else by containing wages, and if the recommendations were to be tampered with, the whole proposition should be rejected. It did not come to a vote in the Senate because it was suggested that it would not be carried, anyway. If my memory serves me correctly, the recommendation was rejected even before it reached the Parliament.

This was immediately followed by a proposition that increases, with no restraint at all, should be given in another area to public servants. I have no wish to criticise their scale of wages. What Senator Bishop said is true. I remember the days, when I was a lot younger, when there were discussions about how the value of a conciliation commissioner would be defined in the community's wage structure. It was suggested that he had responsibility equal to that of a member of Federal Parliament. It was more or less on that basis that the Parliament of the day fixed the salary in what was to some extent almost a completely unknown area of skill and responsibility. Apparently there has been a great change of thinking if it is suggested that they are now worth nearly twice as much as a member of the Commonwealth Parliament. It it now suggested that they are worth $7,000 a year more than a member of the Federal Parliament. The inconsistencies are too great for the members of the DLP to bridge the gap. We feel that if there was a responsibility on the Parliament to interfere with the recommendations of an independent tribunal and to reject the wage levels that were suggested for top public servants 6 months ago - those public servants are in exactly the same category as these conciliation commissioners - the position of commissioners should not be placed before the Parliament until the whole issue is brought before the Parliament and justice is done for all.

If it was right to penalise some people in the interests of setting an example to the community in relation to wage restraint, I believe we should be consistent and continue with that approach until we feel that the danger of inflation has abated to such an extent that complete justice can be done to all. For that reason the Australian Democratic Labor Party proposes to oppose this clause.

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