Adjournment- Public Sector Wage Cap

31 Oct 2019

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My adjournment matter is for the Treasurer, and the action I seek is for the Treasurer to abandon the government’s low 2 per cent public sector wage cap. This wage cap is suppressing wage growth across both the public and private sectors of our economy. This 2 per cent cap is actually lower than the projected CPI across the forward estimates, which means public sector workers could actually face real cuts to wages. The governor of the Reserve Bank, Philip Lowe, warned earlier this year that federal and state government wage caps across the country are helping to depress wages by setting the standard for the private sector. As we face a stagnant economy, and the Reserve Bank are lowering interest rates and crying out for governments to help stimulate the economy, we need higher wages in the public sector.

It is completely hypocritical for this Labor government, which last time I checked were campaigning for higher wages—I am pretty sure that is right; they were out there marching for higher wages—to be now in lock step with the conservative federal government in having austerity measures like low wages for public sector workers. What is even more galling are the massive pay rises of over 10 per cent that the Premier and Treasurer have now received. They will claim it is independent, but what they will not tell you is that they opposed a Greens amendment to cap politicians’ pay rises to the public sector wages policy. And, at the same time, they tried to shoehorn a massive pay rise for some of their MPs sitting over there—one rule for them and another rule for public sector workers.

This wage cap comes at the same time that the government has imposed almost $2 billion worth of cuts to the public sector in the form of so-called efficiency dividends. They are also continuing on their massive privatisation agenda of selling off government agencies—they are now targeting VicRoads as another government agency—in the biggest sell-off since Kennett. A report by the Australia Institute’s Centre for Future Work found that these measures are neither necessary nor effective, and instead they have contributed to broader wage stagnation, macroeconomic weakness, deterioration in service quality and growing inequality. Members interjecting.

Mr HIBBINS: I am interested in the interjections by the $10 000 man over there, the man who was in receipt of his own—

The SPEAKER: Order! The member for Prahran!

Mr HIBBINS: When the union said change the rules, I do not think they meant change the law so the member for Essendon would get a massive pay rise. I do not think that was high on their agenda. Now, I get it: you have got to balance your books and you have got to have reasonable wage restraint. But they are not prepared to lift revenue by properly taxing the super profits of banks, the gambling industry and developers. They refuse to consider big structural changes like replacing stamp duty with a broad-based land tax. Instead they are going after the jobs and wages of public sector workers. We are standing up for public sector workers; over there you are selling them out.

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