Baird Government cuts off High Court salaries appeal

Rod Brown
Assistant General Secretary (Research and Industrial)

The Baird Government has cut off a legal avenue against its salary discounting.

Unions NSW, on behalf of many public sector unions including Federation, recently made a Special Leave application to the High Court over a Supreme Court decision, sitting as the Court of Appeal, which allowed the NSW Government to discount salary increases by the mandated Superannuation Guarantee increase of 0.25 per cent.

On June 19 the Baird Government introduced the State Revenue and Other Legislation Amendment (Budget Measures) Bill to the NSW Parliament. Each year the NSW Parliament considers a similar bill to tidy up what are normally minor administrative inconsistencies between a budget and existing legislation. While the legislation deals with such pithy matters as the "duty on transfers of marketable securities and commercial fishery shares" a final item went unnoticed on page 27 of the bill enabling the Government "to confirm and remake the provisions of the Industrial Relations (Public Sector Conditions of Employment) Regulation 2011".

Neither the Opposition nor cross bench members seem to have noticed this provision. Non-government MPs seem to have been too focused on the Opposition speech in reply to the Budget, which was on the same day, to pay attention to what all on the non-government side thought was an inconsequential bill.

Hansard reveals that there was no debate, not even a second reading speech from the Government, which normally occurs if there is anything remotely controversial in legislation. The bill was given a first, second and third reading before being put and carried without dissent. It went through both houses of parliament and back to the Legislative Assembly all in one day.

The oversight impacts on all NSW public sector employees. No doubt the Government is feeling self-satisfied with its clever tactic.

The effect of the legislation is to cut off the High Court appeal and bind the NSW Industrial Relations Commission to discount salary increases by increases in the Commonwealth's Superannuation Guarantee. For teachers, the Government can discount the 2.5 per cent per annum salary increase allowed under its wages policy to 2.27 per cent, 2 per cent and 2.15 per cent over the life of the current award.

The Superannuation Guarantee increases for State Superannuation Scheme (SSS) and the State Authorities Superannuation Scheme (SASS) members will be directed to their Basic Benefit (a lump sum) account. This is a separate superannuation arrangement to SSS and SASS benefits but appears on each member's SSS or SASS annual statement. For all other teachers, their 0.25 per cent increases will be directed to their nominated superannuation fund. For most teachers this will be First State Super.