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Lies, damned lies

– By CPSU General Secretary Tom Lynch

I’ve been out of the state for a few months and I’m both surprised and disappointed about much that’s happened in Tasmania over that period.

When I left we obviously had a challenging budget on the way but there was no need for panic. Agreements for wages and conditions had been finalised and registered with the Industrial Commission and the Libs had made it clear that public sector job losses would be limited to 500 FTE over 2 years. Just 8 weeks later the newly elected Hodgman government was planning to sack up to 1500 public sector workers, walk away from registered wage agreements and effectively abolish the right of public sector workers to negotiate future agreements.

How could things unravel so fast?  The answer is we were lied to. That’s right – to get elected Will Hodgman and his colleagues deliberately lied to Tasmanian voters.

During the March election Mr Hodgman and Mr Gutwein repeatedly told Tasmanians that, if elected, they would limit job losses in the public sector to 250 in the first year and 250 in the second year. They said this in full knowledge of the state of the budget as outlined in the Revised Estimates Report 2013-14 released by Treasury in February 2014 and of the cost of the spending promises they were making during the election. 

The CPSU strongly doubted this figure and told Members we estimated the job cuts required to pay for the election promises was more like 1300. The Liberals rejected this. In February this year Peter Gutwein emailed every Tasmanian public sector worker describing the union claim as ‘just another Labor/union scare’ and restating that ‘if elected, we would reduce the size of the public sector by 500 FTEs over the first two years of the next term’. Now we are told as many as 1500 jobs will be cut.

During the State Election the CPSU asked candidates to answer a series of questions about issues important to the public sector. In response to the question about wages Will Hodgman wrote, “Today, the Liberal Party could not commit to wage growth outside the current cap [2%]. However, with a growing economy and fiscal discipline, there is greater opportunity to negotiate in good faith with unions when wage agreements fall due, to maintain some level of relativity on wages”. As he wrote this Mr Hodgman knew wage agreements had been finalised and knew the wage increases they contained. There was no mention of a wage freeze or legislating a wage cap that would override the authority of the Industrial Commission. 

We also asked about any proposed changes to the Industrial Relation system to which Mr Hodgman said, “The Liberals have no plans to change the industrial relations system aside from addressing the matter identified by unions that requires some change related to the unintended restriction on the right of parties to appeal a decision”. Now the Libs want to make massive changes to the Industrial Relations system that will effectively remove the right of workers to collectively bargain.

Politicians have a strange way of dodging reality. In parliament you can’t refer to someone as a liar or describe something they have said as a lie – even if it’s clear to everyone that they have. It’s considered un-parliamentary language and you’ll be required to withdraw your statement. But where I come from we call a spade a spade and we call someone who tells lies a liar. Will Hodgman and his colleagues lied to the Tasmanian people at the last election in order to get elected. In my book that makes them liars.

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