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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 3 Hansard (6 March) . . Page.. 653 ..

MS GALLAGHER (continuing):

In respect of the Australian economy, I quote the federal Treasurer, Mr Costello, on the release of the December quarter inflation figures. In December 2001, he said:

Over the first three quarters of 2001, Australia's economic growth was around five times higher than the average growth for the G7 economies ... Despite risks to the Australian economy from the global economic turmoil, the early signs for the Australian economy in 2001-2002 are very encouraging.

Mr Speaker, the federal government should have supported this claim. The economy is performing strongly, but it is still leaving many Australians behind.

At this point, it is worthy of note that the federal Treasurer last year reportedly had a pay rise of $129 per week, and the income of the senior executives of some companies soared by 25 per cent. While the wages and salaries of ordinary workers are held down in the interests of sustaining profits and economic growth, we have seen awards for chief executives move beyond reasonable outcomes.

I would like to remind the Assembly of the situation for many workers here in the ACT. The aged care industry, like the childcare industry, is one of the most socially important and economically undervalued fields of employment in the territory. The situation these workers are in would be substantially alleviated by the living wage case. They work hard, they are a social asset, yet they are severely underpaid.

One of my constituents, Julie, is an aged care worker who is employed on a permanent part-time basis on a wage of only $530 a fortnight before tax. She is one of the many voices the federal government needs to listen to. Julie says:

In the position I'm in I have to work two jobs to make a living. I will support it [the living wage case] because our industry is so badly paid.

The claim is moderate because the hourly rate we're currently receiving is so low. $25 a week is equivalent to 2 hours extra work a week. It will make life easier for a lot of us, especially with kids.

Throughout the industry all employees are badly paid and all are working two jobs. The nurses are badly paid and so are we. We shouldn't have to work two jobs a week.

I could not agree more with Julie's concerns. Minimum wages are being suppressed and, at the same time, there are rises in the cost of living. For example, fresh food is up 10.3 per cent; bread is up 5.1 per cent and car running costs are up 5.1 per cent.

Concern about a fair go for all involves everybody. Serious income inequality affects our community economically, culturally and socially. Income inequality creates social dislocation. It breeds division and can fuel anger and frustration. It has impacts on health and the school achievements of children, and can severely impact on access to opportunities later in life.

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