This speech was delivered on 22 August 2013 in the NSW Upper House. You can read the full debate online here.
STATUTORY AND OTHER OFFICES REMUNERATION ACT 1975: DISALLOWANCE OF STATUTORY AND OTHER OFFICES REMUNERATION (JUDICIAL AND OTHER OFFICE HOLDERS) REGULATION 2013
Mr DAVID SHOEBRIDGE [9.59 a.m.]: On behalf of The Greens I speak to the Opposition’s disallowance motion under section 41 of the Interpretation Act 1987. The Greens did not oppose the legislation that enabled this regulation to be produced. It was not that we did not believe it was wrong in principle—and it is—but allowing the Executive, through the Minister for Finance, to cap the wages, salaries and remuneration of public sector employees and judicial officers is also wrong in principle. I repeat: seeking to have executive control over the wages, remuneration and salaries of judges, crown prosecutors and others is wrong in principle. I fully understand why the Opposition has moved this disallowance motion on the basis of that principle.
The Greens agree with the principles that are the basis of the Opposition’s disallowance motion. However, we will not support the motion because we wish to demonstrate solidarity. If some of the most influential public servants in New South Wales—that is, judges, crown prosecutors and senior members of the public service—are exempted from the wage cap while nurses, clerks, firefighters and other public servants are caught under the wages cap, that will remove some of the pressure from the Government’s grossly unfair wages policy and wages capping legislation.
The Greens believe that the entire edifice that the Government has built is fundamentally wrong. It is fundamentally wrong in principle for the Finance Minister, as an instrument of the Executive, to be able to cap public sector wages, to ignore the decisions of the independent Industrial Relations Commission and, under this regulation, to ignore or bind the determinations of the Statutory and Other Offices Remuneration Tribunal. The Greens are committed, in either the next Parliament or the Parliament after that, to moving and supporting any legislation that tears down the Government’s grossly inappropriate overreach of executive power by ignoring independent tribunals—the Statutory and Other Offices Remuneration Tribunal and the Industrial Relations Commission—and directing by fiat the wages and conditions of public sector workers.
However, The Greens will not support a campaign that carves out some of the most influential people in New South Wales and gives them special protection. It is wrong in principle for the Government to be able to cap the wages, salaries and remuneration of magistrates, Crown prosecutors, District Court judges and Supreme Court judges by executive determination of the Finance Minister. The Greens agree with the Opposition that that should not occur. The Opposition will move two motions today and The Greens will support the second one, which deals with superannuation. The Greens will show solidarity with hundreds of thousands of public sector workers. The clerks working in Roads and Maritime Services offices making sure that licences are properly processed and the people doing the accounts for the public hospitals and making sure that they can operate with sufficient medication and bandages, and the like, are subject to a grossly unfair 2.5 per cent wage cap.
While The Greens strongly oppose the principle of the Government extending that wage cap to judges, magistrates and other influential people, it is wrong to carve them out and give them special protection. If we want to tear down this unfair wage structure, we must ensure that the influential people sitting in darkened clubs with Government members and having dinner with them at fine restaurants see the effects of that arbitrary and unfair overreach by the Executive. It is for those reasons, not because of some philosophical difference, and because we want to tear down this Government’s unfair wage cap that The Greens will not support this motion.