Page 2901 - Week 09 - Thursday, 18 August 2005

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MS GALLAGHER: I thank Mr Mulcahy for the question. I always enjoy getting a question on industrial relations, particularly when we are poles apart in our philosophies about it. They are always enjoyable questions to answer. Mr Mulcahy, in his long introduction to that question, forgot to balance out and to use my argument at the time about productivity savings in delivering those wage outcomes. The fact is that those opposite had delivered a real wage cut to ACT public servants when they were in government and we were not in a position to reduce conditions or seek productivity savings in order to deliver a pay increase. Our public servants were so lowly paid, so far behind the commonwealth salary levels, that we had to play catch-up.

I have made no secret of that. I know that Mr Mulcahy loves to talk about it as being a huge embarrassment to me that we have actually made appropriate wage offers to our public servants, but it is something that I am not ashamed of. It is something that this government is proud of that we were in a position to prioritise allocations of funding in order to have a well-resourced public service, well-paid teachers, well-paid nurses, well-paid clerical staff and well-paid ambulance officers and firefighters in order to have a functioning and effective public service. This is something that I would argue we probably did not have when we came to government, because everybody was walking out the door. Nobody wanted to work here. They were going over to the commonwealth. Separations rates from the ACT have significantly reduced since staff in the ACT public sector have been remunerated in a proper and fair way by this government. That was the aim of the delivery of those wage outcomes in the certified agreement.

I know that Mr Mulcahy does not agree with that. I know he thinks that we should have taken away conditions and not offered as much money as we did. He has been quite clear about that. He cannot bear the fact that a teacher gets paid about $45,000 or that a nurse gets paid about the same amount. He think that that is an extravagant salary to be paid for the work that they do. We know that that is Mr Mulcahy’s view on these matters. I am very comfortable with the position that the ACT government has taken in bargaining and I know that the Chief Minister and I are as one in our minds on this matter.

MR MULCAHY: Minister, what sorts of productivity gains will you seek in the next round of public sector pay negotiations?

MS GALLAGHER: Mr Speaker, it would be a most unusual turn of events for me to disclose to the Assembly the bargaining strategy of the government prior to commencing the negations. I think that the negotiations are due to commence in about 18 months. I can tell you that even in 18 months time we will not be providing to the Assembly the government’s bargaining strategy for dealing with the ACT public service.

I can tell you, Mr Speaker, that in 18 months time, once the full effect of the federal industrial relations changes have come into force in the ACT, the ACT government will, as we do now, negotiate collective agreements with our employees and seek to ameliorate some of the more detrimental impacts of the commonwealth’s changes that will be in place at that time to ensure that we can offer protections to our workers, our employees, that unfortunately the private sector workers will not be able to have.

Mr Smyth: You have not seen the legislation.

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