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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 4 Hansard (16 April) . . Page.. 917 ..

Teachers - Enterprise Bargaining

MR MOORE: Mr Speaker, my question is to Mrs Carnell, as the Minister who has control of industrial relations. I guess that I should direct it to her as Treasurer. Recent reports indicate, Mrs Carnell, that your Government has offered teachers in the ACT an 8 per cent increase over 24 months; in other words, about 4 per cent a year, which is pretty close to the consumer price index. I understand that teachers are the only group now without an agreement with your Government. In making this offer, which is roughly the same rate as, for example, for bus drivers, did you take into account the level of training that teachers have - four years' university training at least - the level of professionalism required of our teachers and their responsibility in terms of our children?

MRS CARNELL: I thank Mr Moore very much for that comment. Obviously, those things have been taken into account on many occasions by the Industrial Relations Commission and by governments all around Australia who have determined teachers' wages in this country. I know that Mr Moore's view is that teachers' salaries are too low. I think one of the great problems in Australia in the last 10 years, and possibly for even longer, has been that the balance between professional wages, for people like nurses and teachers, and those for some people who are possibly somewhat more active in the union movement, one would say, has caused a very real skew. So, we have a situation where people like teachers - who, I know, do not take industrial action easily - have ended up possibly behind other people in our economy who may be more interested in taking industrial action.

I think one of the real challenges for the new Industrial Relations Minister federally is going to be how we overcome those sorts of problems in the future. Teachers are definitely important to our community. They are important to our young people. The offer that we have made them - the 8 per cent over 24 months, which is 5 per cent from our budget and 3 per cent in productivity and efficiency measures - is, at this stage, the most that this Territory can afford. I would like to be able to afford more; but the reality is that, while the Commonwealth Grants Commission takes the approach that it has taken to our retention rates, while the view - - -

Mr Whitecross: Is it someone else's fault?

MRS CARNELL: Do not be stupid. While that view is being taken federally with regard to education funding, the reality is that this is the best we can do. We have taken it very seriously. I believe that the productivity and efficiency measures that have been offered are very much in line with a professional work force, and I believe that the offer we have made is a good one.

MR MOORE: I have a supplementary question, Mr Speaker. In her reply, Mrs Carnell talked about industrial action. She is probably conscious of the fact that teachers are planning a stop-work meeting on Tuesday, which may or may not go ahead, depending on this issue. Chief Minister, do you think that the teachers will be treated in the same way as other unionists as far as stop-work meetings go? My understanding is that some workers have actually been paid for their stop-work meetings. First, is it the case in other unions where people have attended stop-work meetings that they have actually been paid for the time? Secondly, is that going to be the case for teachers?

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