Scrapping the wages cap

Abigail spoke about the urgent need to scrap the cap, and the poor economic management of this Government.

Ms ABIGAIL BOYD (18:11): The Greens will be supporting the Industrial Relations Legislation Amendment (Public Sector Remuneration Cap Repeal) Bill 2022. We thank the Hon. Robert Borsak, as well as the Hon. Mark Banasiak, for introducing the bill on behalf of the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party. I am used to sitting in this place and listening to the Liberals' 1950s—even 1850s—style of economics that seems to be completely divorced from reality. I am used to hearing about this idea of productivity magically happening from people who have their wages pushed down into the ground, who have mounting cost-of-living pressures and who live in a State where the Government does nothing to provide for their basic needs. I am used to hearing this from the Liberals. This is the same party that claims that we need to keep people in poverty so that we do not raise inflation. However, I do not expect it from the Labor Party. Labor must be called out on its position on this bill, which I will come to in a minute.

Coming to the wage cap, in order to stop the so-called debt and deficit, to boost or to somehow keep the economy running, if what this Government needs to do is push down the wages of some of the most vital workers in this State and it cannot give people a fair wage because otherwise it will somehow break the economy, it is doing the economy all wrong. That is not an excuse. The Government cannot say, "Well, sorry, we want to give a couple hundred million in fossil fuel subsidies to the fossil fuel companies. We want to give a few hundred million to the racing industry. We want to give some money here and some money there. But when it comes to workers, we're going to make sure that we put a cap on their wages because the workers can cope; the workers don't matter."

That is what the Government is telling the people of New South Wales. It is telling them that it cannot manage this economy in such a way that it could pay a decent wage to public sector workers, who are holding this State up. That is an absolute disgrace. It shows me and the people of New South Wales that this Government does not understand what economic management is, because it is giving to the rich, the wealthy and the people at the big end of town while absolutely screwing over the workers who keep this State running.

I cannot put it better than the Hon. Adam Searle did in his adjournment speech a couple of weeks ago when he talked about Labor's position on lifting the public sector wage cap. He referred to the Governor of the Reserve Bank, Philip Lowe, a noted left-wing economist, saying in 2019, "Wage caps in the public sector are cementing low wage norms across the country." The Hon. Adam Searle further said:

The effect of removing them would be to address the decline in real wages of public sector workers, increase wages in the private sector and increase State income, consumption and product.

… increases in public sector pay would stimulate the economy …

I dispute a lot of what the Hon. Chris Rath says in his idea of economics. Even in a very basic economics 101, it is very clear that people must have money in their pockets in order to buy any goods. I understand that the Hon. Chris Rath does not understand where the current inflation is coming from and that it is supply motivated, not demand motivated. If the idea is that—because of inflation or because of a lack of creativity and ingenuity in getting around the inflation problem—the only way is to keep people in poverty and to keep their wages low, then the Government is doing things all wrong. It is absolutely amazing that it always talks about inflation as being some reason not to do things, even when it is giving money to the people who are the hardest done by. We are fine with giving tax cuts to the wealthy. Apparently, that will not cause inflation and that is fine. Having more money in the pockets of the wealthy, that does not cause inflation. But, my god, if we try to lift someone out of poverty, whoo, we have to be worried about inflation. Going back to the wonderful comments from the Hon. Adam Searle, he said:

… quality of State public services through lower staff turnover and absenteeism … lead to higher employee morale and motivation. It is not a huge leap to see that productivity would also increase.

Of course, it would. He then ends with, "… stop tinkering at the edges and just scrap the cap," which then brings me to Labor's position on this bill. It comes as a huge surprise that Labor does not want to "just scrap the cap". Instead, Labor wants to have a look into the matter through an inquiry. That is most curious, I think, because there is nothing in the bill that would stop Labor from going and doing its homework to find out how else it might bolster the industrial relations rights of workers in this State. There is nothing in the Shooters bill that would prevent Labor from, I do not know, even initiating a separate inquiry if it wanted to do it through the parliamentary process instead of listening to public sector workers in the ordinary course of their jobs.

Yet Labor is saying that it will not vote to lift the wages cap without having done a bit of an investigation into how else it might reform industrial relations law in this State. It is extraordinary. I do not know how we got to a point where a Labor Party does not want to lift the wages cap despite many of its members having stated so and, in fact, the whole union movement calling on it to lift the wage cap. I am perplexed by that and concerned and, frankly, horrified. Despite that, The Greens will support—and will always support—scrapping the wages cap. It will be very sad to not see the bill pass this House today, but there we are.

The full transcript can be found in Hansard, here.

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