Finance Finance News More jobs, higher wages – the plan is working, according to PM

More jobs, higher wages – the plan is working, according to PM

Scott Morrison smiling.
The Government's plan tp strengthen Australia's economy according to Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Photo: AAP
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In the adjoining English counties of Devon and Cornwall there has been a long-running debate – do you spread jam or cream first on your scone when having a Devonshire tea?

Devon says cream, Cornwall jam.

While this may be seem to be one of those quaint peculiarities that only Britain would entertain, hardware chain Bunnings stirred a hornets’ nest this week by meddling in one of Australia’s own rituals.

Do you put the snag or onion first in a sausage sandwich?

Bunnings issued safety advice to charity groups that use its shop front barbecues to put the onions first.

This is so the sausage can then keep everything in place and prevent spillage of the slippery and potentially dangerous onions.

It was like one of the European Union edicts that England is now trying to escape through Brexit.

As you can imagine, social media erupted.

The sizzling issue even found its way to Singapore where Prime Minister Scott Morrison was attending his first international summit as prime minister.

Was it “un-Australian”, asked an inquiring journalist, for Bunnings to be laying down the rules over the make-up of our beloved snag sandwich?

“Whether the onions are on top or underneath, I’ll always be buying sausages on bread,” Mr Morrison diplomatically replied.

“Frankly I’m not going to give them any recipe hints.”

The question provided the prime minister some light relief from the barrage of media questions on Australia’s troubled trade agreement with Indonesia, the idea of moving the Australian Israeli embassy to Jerusalem and the US-China tariffs war.

Even so, Mr Morrison might have liked a question on the latest wage figures as he continues to lean on generally strong economic results to promote his government’s management of the economy.

The outcome of the September quarter wage price index – the Reserve Bank and Treasury’s preferred measure of wage growth – was significant, posting the strongest annual increase in three years.

At 2.3 per cent it was comfortably above the rate of inflation at 1.9 per cent, suggesting increased household spending power.

Above inflation wages growth has been the missing link in a strengthening economy which has pushed the jobless rate steadily lower.

Still, Mr Morrison didn’t miss an opportunity to trumpet another solid labour force report the very next day.

The national unemployment rate held at a six year-low of 5 per cent in October as a further 42,300 full-time jobs were added to the workforce.

“Our plan for the Australian economy to make it stronger is working,” Mr Morrison told his accompanying media pack on the sidelines of the conference.

“Better wages, more jobs, a stronger economy…that’s what our government will continue to deliver by sticking to the economic plan that is working.”

Of course, bragging about the state of the economy as a major political prop heading into an election is not the sole property of the Liberal party.

Labor’s Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews also had something to punch the air about heading into a tight state election on November 24.

The October employment figures showed Victoria’s jobless rate dropped to 4.5 per cent, the lowest in more than seven years.

For Mr Morrison, the good economic story has done little to lift his government’s standing in the polls.

In fact, its worsened – despite providing a daily dose of scaremongering about how life will be so much worse under federal Labor.

However, the economic news appears to be providing support for consumer confidence – and potentially retail spending – even before this week’s slightly more upbeat wage growth data.

This is despite a myriad of negatives to sour the mood of the public.

There’s been the recent spike in petrol prices, the ongoing political upheaval on the removal of yet another prime minister and the subsequent Wentworth debacle that saw the coalition fall into minority government.

There is also the endless line of news headlines predicting ever larger falls in house prices.

And, of course, there is the now apparent dangers of the sausage sizzle.

Colin Brinsden is a former Australian Associated Press economics correspondent based in the Canberra Press Gallery.

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