Page 1083 - Week 04 - Wednesday, 16 March 2005

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MR SPEAKER: As long as it is a personal matter.

MR PRATT: It is purely that, Mr Speaker.

MR SPEAKER: The member may proceed.

MR PRATT: Today in question time Mr Hargreaves made a statement that I had said yesterday on ABC radio that I had received information about the Chisholm grass fire late last week and words to the effect that I had not been able to seek further information. The fact is that I did not say that yesterday. Indeed, I had said words to that effect on Monday morning on ABC radio—literally half a working day after receiving the information that was the subject of that question.

Living wage case

Discussion of matter of public importance

MR SPEAKER: I have received a letter from Mr Gentleman proposing that a matter of public importance be submitted to the Assembly for discussion, namely:

The importance of the national living wage case to working Australians and Canberrans.

MR GENTLEMAN (Brindabella) (3.39): Mr Speaker, the topic I bring before the Assembly today for discussion is particularly timely. At the beginning of this month, the ACT government participated in a joint submission of all state and territory governments to the 2005 living wage case. This occurred at the time of heightened debate at the level of government and in the community about the future of the living wage case.

The 2005 case is set to be conducted only a couple of months before the coalition takes control of the Senate. Unions have warned that this may be the last living wage case, as the commonwealth looks to the future determination of minimum wage levels without the independent umpire, the Australian Industrial Relations Commission.

My concern in raising this matter of public importance is to ensure that this debate does not continue without due consideration of the needs of working families across Australia and in Canberra who are affected each year by the decision of the IRC. The annual living wage case must be considered in its context and not purely in economic terms, as some would have it. The safety net increase occurs every year as a result of an application made by trade unions to the AIRC for an increase in the minimum rates payable under federal awards. The final decision of the AIRC is then applied to each award and industry on an individual basis, with base rates of pay rising in reflection of the outcomes of the case.

The submission of the ACT government to the national wage case was made jointly with other state and territory Labor governments, proposing a $20 increase for the ACT’s lowest paid. This joint submission supports a sustainable wage increase that would bring the minimum wage for a full-time worker to $487.40. The submission recognises that in the current economic climate the advantages of growth should be passed on to low-paid workers. All those who work to make the economy strong should share in the prosperity

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