Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 11 Hansard (14 December) . . Page.. 3019 ..
MS TUCKER (continuing):
Mr Speaker, I am moving this motion because I believe it is critical to the wellbeing of the Canberra community that we find an equitable solution to the problems surrounding senior executive and chief executive salaries. We have heard that the budget is tight; that we have to become more efficient; that cuts against environmental education, public transport, nursing positions, libraries, et cetera, are all being made because apparently we do not have the cash to pay for them. It is therefore ironic and confusing when we hear about some of the exorbitant salaries paid to some newly arrived members of the senior executive ranks.
Yesterday in the Assembly we heard about just two of those salaries. At present the likes of Mr Anderson are being paid roughly 20 times what a person at the bottom end of the salary spectrum is being paid. These salaries are made more offensive as we approach the end of the year and the Christmas season, which so many people find a time of severe financial hardship. The Government has made the generous offer to ACT employees of a one per cent pay increase, a pay increase that for many would mean a before-tax increase of just a few dollars a week. This is when the Government insists on massive salaries for an elite few.
We have heard over and over again the arguments about the need to reduce funding to social service delivery. More and more when I go out in the community I am being asked the question - last night people were approaching me at a function at Narrabundah College - why is it that education is no longer valued as demanded by the community? On the issue of Birrigai, I have had many people coming to me absolutely horrified by the fact that this very special place, which most children in the ACT visit and which is a very special place for all of them, is being subjected to the axe of the economic rationalists.
The Greens believe that we must find a more equitable way to distribute our salary dollars. We are not arguing that everyone should be paid the same; rather, that the difference between the top salary earners and the bottom salary earners should be less. While delaying these Bills may have some minor implications for the Public Sector Management (Amendment) Bill passed yesterday, we believe that those implications can be overcome quite easily. Therefore, we urge all members who are committed to some measure of equity in our community to support the delay of these Bills to give us an opportunity to look at the issue carefully and to give the community time to consider the implications of this kind of approach. We see around the world the gap between rich and poor widening all the time and the social consequences of that. We in Australia pride ourselves as not having such a huge gap, but it is actually increasing all the time, as we have stated before. I urge members to consider supporting this motion.
MR KAINE (11.19): Mr Speaker, I must say that I oppose this motion to refer these Bills to the Public Accounts Committee. I am not too sure what Ms Tucker means by all of this, to be frank, and I suspect that neither does she. In subparagraph (a) of her motion she talks about "the need for such bills, given the existence in Canberra of the Commonwealth Remuneration Tribunal". I am not too sure what the relevance of that is. Certainly, the Commonwealth Remuneration Tribunal exists and, certainly, we have used it since self-government was granted in 1989; but there is no presumption, nor ought there to be, that we will continue to use such a Commonwealth body. What is the merit?