Finance Minister Mathias Cormann has warned Bill Shorten’s push for a “substantial increase” to the minimum wage will push workers onto the dole.
On Friday, the government will make its own submission to the Fair Work Commission, but warned that Australia’s wages are high by international standards.
“Our minimum wage here in Australia is already the third highest in the world behind Luxembourg and France,” Senator Cormann said.
“Bill Shorten trying to pursue this central command, central planning model in Australia now will lead to higher unemployment.
“If he pushes people, in particularly low income workers, lowly skilled workers, young people trying to get into the labour market onto the unemployment queue, they will not get a wage, they will get the dole. That does not help them,” he said.
Mr Shorten has called for a “substantial increase” to the minimum wage, but stopped short of endorsing the ACTU’s push for a $42,000 living wage for Australia’s lowest paid workers.
The Labor leader did not nominate an exact figure by which the minimum wage should increase, leaving the door open for the goal to also be addressed through tax cuts and family tax benefits.
Labor also does not nominate timeframe for achieving the target, unlike the ACTU which is proposing a $43 a week increase this year, and a two-year target to end the poverty gap.
The ALP submission to the Fair Work Commission (FWC), obtained by The New Daily, also warns that wage stagnation is ripping off workers and “the laws that guide the Fair Work Commission can’t deliver decent wages growth for workers and the economy”.
“Everything in Australia is going up except people’s wages,” Mr Shorten said.
“When millions of Australian wage earners are experiencing wage stagnation, it hurts everybody.
“When 60 per cent of the Australian economy is consumption, wage stagnation hurts economic growth and confidence.”
Since 2015 when the ALP started making submissions calling for wage increases, it has never nominated an exact amount by which the minimum wage should rise.
However, the ACTU has also called for an increase to the minimum wage to ensure Australia’s lowest-paid, full-time workers are not left living in poverty.
It is proposing a $43 a week increase to the minimum wage in 2019, and assuming a 1.5 per cent increase in the median next year, an additional 5.5 per cent in 2020.
The FWC has previously conceded that Australia’s minimum wage of $18.93 per hour, or $37,398 per annum, leaves many full-time workers in poverty.
Labor will argue that a wage increase for Australia’s lowest-paid workers is good for the economy.
“Only Labor can be trusted to manage the economy in the interests of working people. We will restore penalty rates, stop the rorts in labour hire, protect subcontractors from being ripped off, and make sure the minimum wage is a living wage,” Mr Shorten said.
“We will deliver a fair go for all Australians, not just the top end of town.”
Everything is going up in Australia except people’s wages. Watch this video to see how Labor will get wages moving again. pic.twitter.com/72sKlp6tFS
— Bill Shorten (@billshortenmp) March 14, 2019
Labor’s workplace relations spokesman Brendan O’Connor said workers on the minimum wage are doing “hard, unglamorous, unforgiving jobs”.
“Their work often goes unseen and unnoticed by the rest of us. It’s unacceptable than an adult Australian in 2019 could work full time and yet still live in poverty,” he said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison warned on Thursday that a big increase in the minimum wage could force bosses to sack people.
“Bill Shorten and Labor’s plan for small and family businesses like the ones you see here, is to basically tell them; ‘You choose who you’ll have to sack to meet your wages bill’, under a policy that he himself can’t even explain to the Australian people,” he said.
“I don’t know where he thinks the money is going to rain down from, for them to meet these additional costs. It shows that he has no empathy and no clue about the pressures facing small and family businesses.”