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Tuesday, 3 December 1974
Page: 3013

Second Reading

Senator Sir MAGNUSCORMACK (Victoria)^ 12.33)- I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

I do not wish to detain the Senate for very long on this matter. I think it proper that I should inform honourable senators the reasons that have led me to take this action today. It will be recollected that last week I brought down a Bill to deal with the matter relating to the unfortunate position in which the Principal Parliamentary Reporter finds himself as a result of anomalies that existed in the 1973 determination brought down by the then Special Minister of State, Senator Willesee. In my speech I assumed a degree of blame- a blame of omissionnamely, that I had not noticed the situation in which the Principal Parliamentary Reporter found himself. However, I am not going to have myself saddled with the blame of commission. I want to be perfectly clear about that, and I will explain to honourable senators why I will not be saddled with the blame of commission. The reason is that the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee), who is not presently in the Senate but who is at the moment, we have been advised this morning, in Singapore or on his way there, was as the Minister representing the Special Minister of State (Mr Lionel Bowen) responsible for this error.

Because of my knowledge of this error I sought last week by way of question from Senator Douglas McClelland, who is the Manager of Government Business in the Senate, information as to what determination the Government was going to make in the context of this matter. I felt that the Principal Parliamentary Reporter was being ground between the upper and nether millstones of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) on the one hand and some affronted pride of Senator Willesee on the other. I was told to mind my own business, notwithstanding the fact that the business on which I was engaged was the business of the Senate. I felt that I was entitled to ask Senator Douglas McClelland, as the Manager of Government Business in the Senate, what the situation was in relation to the business of the Senate. It was not my personal business because once the Bill had been put down it became the business of the Senate.

I am informed by the son of process of osmosis that exists in Parliament House that when this matter was discussed in a certain area it was Senator Willesee, the man responsible for the original fault, who moved words to the effect that no further notice be taken of the matter. I understand that some of the arguments put and some of the observations subsequently made were that the Principal Parliamentary Reporter was not the only aggrieved person in this context of the failure of the Senate to agree to the totality of the Campbell Tribunal's recommendations. As that seems to be the opinion of certain honourable members and honourable senators who sit in places around here, I felt that in the circumstances I should oblige them by bringing down a Bill which I have now brought down, which overrides the Bill which I put down last week and which is presently on the notice paper. I felt that I should oblige them by moving that all of the First Division officers and statutory officers should be given their rate of remuneration.

I go a step further than that and say that it was never the intention of the Senate on the occasion on which the Senate supported the motion moved by Senator Wright to disapprove of the Campbell Tribunal determination. What the Senate did at that stage is made quite clear if one reads the speech that Senator Withers made on that occasion. In my own speech in support of my Leader I said that for reasons that now seem to be embraced by the Prime Minister on all sorts of levels, except overseas travel, no encouragement should be given to those people who seek to have their rates of remuneration reasonably established. Therefore I commend this Bill to the Senate. But I go further than that. I would make some further observations in elaboration of what I have said already. I would find it most agreeable if honourable senators opposite would take my remarks into consideration and, in their Party conclaves, agree perhaps tomorrow to support this Bill before the Senate rises for the Christmas break.

The Bill proposes that the determination made by the Remuneration Tribunal on 19 July 1974 in relation to officers of the First Division of the Public Service and holders of statutory offices have effect notwithstanding the disapproval of the determination by the Senate on 25 July1 974. 1 have already outlined the circumstances of that disapproval. It is intended that this Bill supersede the Remuneration Bill (No. 2) which I introduced on 26 November1974 to give effect to the determination insofar as it relates to the remuneration to be paid to the Principal Parliamentary Reporter.

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Media) - Senator, doyou withdraw that Bill from the notice paper?

Senator Sir MAGNUS CORMACK -I will seek leave to withdraw it. I will give consideration to it but I can do so only by leave of the Senate. In my second reading speech on the Remuneration Bill (No. 2) 1974, I referred to other First Division Officers and holders of statutory offices who, in addition to the Principal Parliamentary Reporter, are also at a salary disadvantage in relation to their immediate deputies, but I added that I felt that none could be in such an invidious situation as the Principal Parliamentary Reporter. However, I recognise the argument that there should be consistency in this matter and that there should be justice for all concerned.

In the first place the Parliament must recognise a responsibility to correct serious anomalies in the remuneration of the senior officers of the Public Service and it is to be noted that these anomalies have worsened following the determination of the Public Service Arbitrator on 2 December 1974, the day before yesterday. The present position is, I believe, totally untenable.

Secondly, there is the simple justice of the matter. To put it in the normal Australian vernacular, we Australians are fond of asking for a 'fair go'. It is not a 'fair go' that one small group of officers should suffer a wage freeze while other sections of the Public Service are being satisfied through the arbitral system. It is now 4 months since the Senate saw fit to disapprove the determinations of the Remuneration Tribunal and in that time there has been a significant shift in economic policy. I put it to the Senate- I put it to the Senate strongly- that it is time to give effect to the determination of the Remuneration Tribunal. On that basis, I commend the Bill to the Senate and express the hope that the Senate will proceed at the earliest opportunity to rectify the errors of the past and give these officers of the Public Service a fair go.

Debate (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) adjourned.

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