Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 7 Hansard (24 June) . . Page.. 2256 ..
Despite what Mr Corbell says, I can remember-notwithstanding all the budgetary pressures the previous government faced as a result of the incompetence of the previous Labor administration-that, in those difficult circumstances, we still managed to give some significant pay increases.
One that comes to mind, which Mr Corbell, as the previous minister for education, should remember, was a very significant pay rise. It was a pay increase of 11.5 per cent or so over three years which the AEU was happy with. That was at a difficult time for the territory. That went to teachers in the government sector and to TAFE teachers. That was a not insignificant pay rise, compared with what was being offered in the general community, despite the significant financial difficulties in which this territory found itself.
So, I say to the current government: you are able to give out such largesse as this. You are able to give substantial pay rises-the opposition is not criticising that. We have a strong and dedicated public service here in the territory, as anyone who has ever been in government will attest. The reason you are able to do this is the strong financial position in which the previous Liberal government left this territory.
I hope we do not see a situation-although we may well see that-of you people squandering that and going back to the bad old days when this territory was very much in the red, with all the resultant problems and dramas, when whoever is in government, probably us, has to come in, pick up the pieces and start all over again. That is something you lot need to be very cautious of.
MR CORBELL(Minister for Health and Minister for Planning) (11.10): As usual, when these debates occur, we have the commentary from the Liberal members of the Assembly that there is a problem caused by the previous Labor government, and that justifies nearly everything in the world. It justifies delivering real wage decreases to ACT public servants, to the extent that it undermines the capacity of the ACT government service to respond to the needs of the people of Canberra.
Mr Smyth asks, "Who benefits from a wage increase to public servants?"I will tell you who benefits. The Canberra community benefits, because we have public servants who are paid well, although not extravagantly, in accordance with their responsibilities. They are then in a position to respond to needs and deliver the services our community expects of them.
When this government came to office, it encountered a situation where, for the past seven years, there had been real wage decreases to ACT government employees. Their real wages had gone backwards. They had not even stayed stagnant-they had gone backwards. In real terms, they were receiving less last year than when the agreement they signed was entered into back in the late 1990s.
That was the consequence with which we were faced. That is what this Appropriation Bill addresses. This Appropriation Bill delivers real wage increases to public servants for the first time in seven years. It does it in the context of not making ACT public servants the highest paid in the country-far from it. In fact, it delivers wage outcomes for ACT government employees to keep them generally in line with their counterparts in the Commonwealth public service.