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Labor Matter of Public Importance - Wages
Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Deputy Speaker, I want to say on this issue a pox on both your houses. At the federal level we have the Liberals and Labor lining up to entrench wages inequality in this country, hand massive tax cuts to the rich, do nothing about the fact that many corporations in Tasmania pay zero tax, and in the case of Labor, to pay lip service on the need to raise Newstart, which is $40 a day, an unsurvivable amount of money. It is interesting that for many years now the Greens at the federal level have recognised along with the social services sector that Newstart is a cruel underpayment and we have been moving to make sure that Newstart is raised so that there is an element of liveability there so the people who are on Newstart have the resources not only to live and feed themselves but to go out and seek employment.
There has been nothing from Labor on the need to raise Newstart until after the federal election. They could have made a real difference here, to the development of a better policy on Newstart and sending a message to people who are living on the margins in this country that they support raising Newstart, but we did not get any of that and there has been no substantive action from either party at the federal level to reduce the level of wages inequality in this country.
As the gap between rich and poor gets wider and wider, more people are pushed to the margins and more families with children are struggling to feed their children. This is as a result of neoliberal policies from both the major parties in Canberra - so I say again, a pox on both your houses.
Once you start at a federal level providing massive tax cuts to the wealthy, what you inevitably do is run down public services. If government does not have the revenue to fund public hospitals, quality public schools and increase affordable housing, you diminish public services. That is exactly what is going to happen because of the collusion at the federal level between the Liberal and Labor parties to hand a massive tax cut over the years to the wealthier in our society, which will only increase social inequality and put downward pressure on the wages on public servants particularly.
It is poor form when parliament spends large amounts of time on the public purse talking about politicians' pay, and that is of course what the subtext of this matter of public importance debate is about. It is about the charade that we saw in question time this morning where Labor was prepared to use a submission that the Speaker, I would argue perhaps unthinkingly, put into the Tasmanian Industrial Commission as the basis for political point-scoring. We made the decision when the invitation came from the Tasmanian Industrial Commission on MPs' pay not to make a submission and I am really glad we did not. But, if we had, we would have said that Tasmanian members of parliament are actually paid quite well to do the work that we do, we are very grateful for the wages we receive, and it is an honour to stand in here as a member of parliament, particularly as a Greens member of parliament.
In terms of the amount of pay members of parliament get, when the parliamentary salaries and allowances legislation came before this place, we tried to make sure that MPs' pay was pegged at the same rate as the public sector indexation, because we argue that we are public servants. There was an opportunity there for parliament not to be caught up in this mess, and for us to recognise that we are public servants, and to have the same rate of increase each year - the indexed rate of increase each year as public sector workers. I believe that was a lost opportunity for the parliament. It would have made sure we were not in this messy situation we are in, in relation to pay.
In our office, we had a look at Tasmanian wages over the past four years, and on our statistical analysis, overall wages here have increased at the equal highest rate of any state each year, and ahead of the national average each year. Private sector wages have increased at a higher rate than the national average each year, but with the public sector - and this is why I queried you on the statement that you made -
Mr Gutwein - In this current year?
Ms O'CONNOR - Every year is my advice - public sector wages have increased at a lower rate than the national average each year on our statistical analysis. We certainly have some capacity within our office to really crunch statistics.
Mr Gutwein - We do too.
Ms O'CONNOR - You have Treasury, but -
Mr Gutwein - I am just wondering what measure you are using, wage price indexing or -
Ms O'CONNOR - We have CPI, overall Tas, private, public, so it is ABS data.
Mr Gutwein - The measure for wages - it is ABS, wage price index?
Ms O'CONNOR - No, there is no wage price index metric here that I can see. Public sector wages growth has been lower than private sector wages growth in three out of the past four years, because this Government consistently undervalues the work that is done by our public service, and only this year has had to concede that capping public sector wages at 2 per cent was unreasonable and unjustifiable. Particularly if we are to believe what the Treasurer says about living in a golden age, which I tell you they do not believe in the northern suburbs of Hobart, they do not believe in Brighton, and they do not believe in rural and regional Tasmania.
We are very disappointed in how question time devolved this morning. If we were going to have a debate about wages that went to talking about each party's policy that would be constructive, but it is pretty clear that the purpose of this matter of public importance has simply been to extend the politics of question time this morning.