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Ministers show a united front for 'complicated' pay freeze proposal

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Queensland Treasurer Cameron Dick will not say whether legislation to force the State Government’s contentious pay freeze proposal into law has been considered by Cabinet but reveals all ministers are now involved.

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Visiting Cairns on his first trip as Treasurer, Dick told reporters the Government had “positive engagement” with unions on the pay freeze and details would be released in due course.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has vowed to block any public service pay increases in 2020-2021. The move was foreshadowed in April after a campaign by Brisbane tabloid newspaper The Courier-Mail.

“The Government will look at a whole range of options in relation to the wage freeze,” Dick said today, adding that it was a “complicated issue”.

Asked whether draft legislation had been considered by Cabinet, ahead of the resumption of Parliament next week, Dick declined to reveal any Cabinet deliberations.

Palaszczuk, visiting Mackay, also avoided the question but insisted the pay freeze remained an appropriate response to the economic repercussions of the pandemic.

“We have made it a priority to keep our frontline workers and our public servants … in jobs and we know that other people have lost their jobs,” Palaszczuk said today.

Palaszczuk said she had tasked Dick and Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace with implementing the pay freeze. The Treasurer, for his part, said Labor’s entire front bench was now involved.

“All of the ministers are involved in this,” Dick said, with Labor MPs also being approached by public service constituents.

The Queensland Teachers’ Union has rallied its members to lobby their local MP, regardless of political party allegiance, for its enterprise bargaining agreement to be honoured next financial year. It expects the government to instead legislate to postpone the July 1 increase, and then play catch-up with two increases in 2021-2022.

Ahead of a Budget update in September, Dick also would not be drawn on whether the Government might freeze bonuses for executives. Several senior bureaucrats have had their contracts extended without any pay increase, in line with the proposal.

It also remains unclear whether casual employees whose contracts are due for renewal at the end of June will instead be terminated.

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