Sunrise host Samantha Armytage has hit out after attracting a major online backlash among morning TV viewers for promoting the Prime Minister’s view that Australians on $180,000 a year aren’t “rich”.
“It depends where you live in Australia as to whether or not you are wealthy on that, in Sydney probably not,” Armytage said during the Channel Seven morning show on Thursday.
“$180,000 sounds like a lot, but there FIFO workers make huge sacrifices. They are often the sole income earner, [have] a couple of kids, a mortgage.”
Armytage was blasted by some Sunrise viewers as being “out of touch”.
“If they are not rich, how poor does that make pensioners and the unemployed?” wrote one viewer on Facebook.
Another said: “It’s also hard working in a call centre and I’m pretty sure I would be flat out earning half that, regardless of how much overtime I do. Plus I get less tax cuts. So yes, they’re pretty rich.”
Armytage was also the subject of news stories after her comments, with at least one highlighting she lives in a ‘luxury’ home.
“I did NOT say this,” Armitage later said of one headline that paraphrased her comments.
“These stupid headlines are SO irresponsible and create such hatred.
Almost every panellist on @sunriseon7 this morning echoed my words; that Sydney is an expensive city,” she said.
The Sunrise comments echoed PM Scott Morrison, who made the $180,000 claim in support of the controversial third stage of his government’s proposed tax cuts on Wednesday.
Mr Morrison insisted he remained fully committed to introducing the personal income tax cuts in 2024. Under them, all Australian workers who earn between $45,000 and $200,000 will pay no more than 30 cents in the dollar.
The tax changes are expected to cost more than $130 billion, with the majority of the benefits flowing to high-income workers.
Visiting central Queensland on Wednesday, Mr Morrison said heavy industry workers would be among those to benefit.
“For a period of time many of these workers will go out and work on the mines,” he said.
“It’s hard work, you’re away from your families, it’s fly-in and it’s fly-out, and you do earn a bit more when you’re doing that. But I tell you what, you put a bit of it away too.
“I don’t think they should be penalised and treated like they’re some merchant banker in Sydney.”
But there was also support for Armytage’s view, with many viewers agreeing FIFO workers made sacrifices for what appeared to be generous pay.
“They sacrifice their family by leaving their families to work away. Some marriages are broken from the the strain of absence. They are taxed more than the richest people in Australia. They are on a day and night shift roster. They can work weekends and public holidays,” wrote one follower.
“People who earn $180,000 in the mines would be supervisors, who are responsible for the lives of up to 80 people and the productivity to make money for the mine. All this is why they get this money.”
Labor remains undecided about the “stage three” cuts. It has said it will settle a position closer to the next election, but remains concerned $80 billion of the relief could flow to people earning more than $180,000 a year.
But Mr Morrison said Labor painted the wrong picture about people earning big bucks.
“Labor never gets it on tax,” he said.
“We took that to the election, the Australian people supported us, we made it law, it’s law now. He would have to repeal it.”
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese has argued it is hard to justify the legislated tax cuts in the current economic climate.
He said with deep budget deficits on the horizon, it was unwise to promise top-end tax cuts in five years.