Pay freeze debate continues

Peter Gutwein

Peter Gutwein

DEBATE on the government’s divisive wage freeze legislation ran long into the night, following earlier accusations from Labor and the Greens that the Liberals ‘‘hated poor people’’.

Premier Will Hodgman ruled out cutting the debate short, but with safe majority numbers the policy is expected to sail through the lower house when Parliament returns later this month.

The signature savings strategy may face a road block in the upper house, with several MLCs expressing concern with being ‘‘black mailed’’ into passing the legislation and asking for a ‘‘plan B’’.

The Crown Employees (Salaries) Bill aims to save $50 million a year over the forward estimates by stopping public servants receiving automatic pay rises.

While the mooted savings have been factored into the state budget, the measure needs to pass both houses of Parliament separately.

The government has said without the legislation, 500 public servants would lose their jobs.

Western Tiers independent MLC Greg Hall said he wanted to hear what Treasurer Peter Gutwein had to say, and would keep an open mind.

‘‘There certainly are challenges facing the budget,’’ Mr Hall said.

‘‘Doing nothing is not a responsible solution,’’ he said.

Franklin Greens MHA Nick McKim said it was unfair the wage freeze would not apply to judges and magistrates.

‘‘Why is it that you are prepared to legislate to overturn legal agreements for our lowest paid public sector workers but not cut the pays of some of our highest paid public sector workers?’’ Mr McKim told parliament.

But Mr Gutwein said pausing statutory officials’ pay could impede on the separation of powers.

Deputy Labor Leader Michelle O’Byrne said the legislation overrides the Industrial Commission, urging the government to negotiate with unions instead.

Mr Gutwein said he was still open to discussing the policy with unions, but negotiations had so far not been constructive.

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