THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING
SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN
PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
WEDNESDAY 15 AUGUST 2018
SUBJECT: Release of ABS data on wages growth.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Well thank you for coming out this afternoon. We've seen Australian Bureau of Statistics data today dealing with wages growth in Australia and it's disappointing to see that this Prime Minister retains the dubious distinction of presiding over the lowest wages growth in Australian history. The most recent data that shows a 0.6 per cent increase over the quarter takes annual wages growth to 2.1 per cent, the same as the Consumer Price Index, so wages are barely keeping up with inflation and if you look at private sector wages
they're falling behind inflation. Private sector wages are counting for 85 per cent of workers across Australia are in fact at 2 per cent per annum which means that they're below CPI. This Prime Minister and his Government ought to be ashamed of the fact that they continue to do everything they can to drive down wages, including measures like the cuts to penalty rates, like their lack of support for increases to the minimum wage, at the same time as they're trying to shovel billions of dollars of tax relief out to some of our biggest companies, $17 billion to the banks alone. At a time when company profits are growing at around 3 times the rate of wages growth, perhaps the Government should focus a little more on making sure Australians can make ends meet and a little less on padding out the profit margins of some of our biggest companies. Any questions?
JOURNALIST: What can be done about this?
PLIBERSEK: Well you actually
first of all
need a Government that wants to see decent wages growth. When we were campaigning in these by-elections, when I'm out in my own electorate doing street stalls and so on on the weekends, Australians say to me all the time 'we feel like the cost of everything is going up'. Everything's going up, except our wages. They feel it in their hip pockets. So the first thing the Government should do is listen to people when they say it's tough to make ends meet. The second thing they could do, of course, is to do as Labor is - give up the tax cuts for the big end of town and for
earners, and make sure that people on low and middle incomes get bigger tax cuts. Our proposal is that people on low and middle incomes would get almost twice the tax cut that the
offering them. We can afford to do
because we're not giving tax cuts at the big end of town. We also need to, of course, look at our industrial relations environment. We've got a Government that supports cuts to penalty rates. Labor, in contrast, says that we would reverse those penalty rate cuts should we be elected. We've also made a number of other announcements that support decent wages growth - getting rid of sham contracting, getting rid of the zombie agreements that are left over from WorkChoices, making sure that people who are classed as casual are actually casual workers, licensing
firms and making sure that people who are hired through these labour hire arrangements are on the same pay and conditions as the permanent workforce. We need to have an industrial relations system that supports a fair day's pay for a fair day's work.
JOURNALIST: It's the largest quarterly increase we’ve had since March 2014 and economists believe we're on track for another increase in September, so surely something is working?
PLIBERSEK: Well, look, any increase is welcome, but this is a minor increase in the scheme of things. We still have private sector wages growing slower than inflation. We've got significant under-employment across the Australian economy. We've got unemployment rates that are higher than they ought to be, given the global economy that we've got at the moment. I don't think these are figures that the Government should be taking comfort in. We need to do better.
JOURNALIST: In this context, if company tax cuts don't pass the Senate this fortnight, should the Government bring forward personal income tax cuts?
PLIBERSEK: Well, they could adopt Labor's policy. Our tax cuts, our personal income tax cuts, give much greater benefit to millions of Australians, almost twice the tax cut to millions of Australians on low and middle incomes.
JOURNALIST: And the data today shows us that Western Australia and the Northern Territory seem to have the most modest wage growth across the year. Any insights as to why that might be?
PLIBERSEK: Well I think the Western Australian and Northern Territory Governments would be the first to say that the tailing off of the construction phase of the mining boom is affecting employment, including wages growth in those economies.
JOURNALIST: And also on wages, wondering if you have any thoughts on the Fair Work Commission's decision today that the Ombudsman has been miscalculating the amount of personal leave owed to some people who are doing long shifts?
PLIBERSEK: Yes, I think we just need to listen to the independent umpire in that respect, and I don't propose to make any other comments.