Morrison, Shorten in showdown over wages

PRIME Minister Scott Morrison has ramped up his attack on Labor’s plan to lift wages, accusing Bill Shorten of forcing business to sack people to give others pay rises.

The opposition has hinted at tweaking industrial laws to drive wages up for low-paid workers, while unions are pushing for a $43-a-week rise in the minimum wage.

Mr Morrison said the Labor leader needed to be clear about how many jobs the plan would cost and how many businesses would shut down.

“He’s saying to coffee shop owners and small businesses around the country: ‘sack someone’. That’s his policy – that people should be sacked,” the prime minister told reporters in Melbourne.

“Bill Shorten wants to sacrifice jobs for his politics of envy.”

He said wages would rise through a stronger economy which allowed businesses to grow and pass on wages increases.

Mr Shorten is weighing up ways to encourage the commission to take more factors into account to ensure low-paid workers get a living wage, which is 60 per cent of the national median wage.

The opposition leader has branded the bosses of Australia “fat cats” for opposing his push to give the nation’s poorest workers a pay rise, arguing executive salaries continue to rise.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions wants the Fair Work Commission to lift the minimum wage by six per cent rise to $762.20 a week, up from $719.20, in its annual review.

ACTU secretary Sally McManus said a 10.7 per cent increase over two years would lift people out of poverty.

“No full-time worker should live in poverty,” she told ABC Radio National on Wednesday.

“If you work 38 hours a week you should earn a living wage, one you can survive on not one that pushes you into poverty.”

Ms McManus said Fair Work should be making minimum wage determinations based on the living wage.

“We absolutely believe the commission should be given the job of deciding what a living wage is in Australia,” she said.

Employer groups have warned against compromising the independence of the industrial relations tribunal, while also arguing unsustainable pay increases could cost jobs.

Assistant Treasurer Stuart Robert said everyone wanted to see higher wages, but it needed to be done in a responsible way.

But Labor frontbencher Ed Husic said Australia needed a functioning economy that worked for the majority of people rather than a few.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry is against governments using legislation when the rate of any pay rises has been set by an independent body for more than a century.

The Business Council of Australia and Australian Industry Group have also warned against unsustainable wage rises.

Australia’s minimum wage is $18.93 an hour or $719.20 per 38 hour week before tax.

© AAP 2019