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Circling back to wages, Australia’s workplace relations minister says the country’s lowest-paid workers have “no room at all” despite inflation figures starting to ease.
Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke’s comments come as the government signals it will push for another pay rise to meet cost-of-living pressures.
Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed yesterday that the inflation rate fell to 6.8 percent in February from a peak of 8.4 percent in December, although prices in some sensitive sectors continued to rise.
Tony Burke says the lowest paid have “no room” despite easing inflation.Credit:Rhett Wyman
The government’s submission to the Fair Work Commission’s annual pay review, which sets the minimum wage each year based on economic factors, is due to take place on Friday.
Speaking to the media this morning, Burke said as inflation slows, “if you don’t have any savings, if you’re on that lower, lower income, you have no room at all, and that will be reflected in what we put forward from the government has”.
In an earlier interview with Sky News, he said inflation is not driven by high wage growth because high wage growth does not occur in Australia.
The workplace relations minister said despite the 5.2 percent increase in the minimum wage last year, the wage price index for the last quarter of 2022 was 3.3 percent due to high inflation.
“So helping the people who are doing it the hardest doesn’t mean that you then get that kickback all the way through the pay system,” Burke told Sky News.
Following the ACTU’s call for a 7 per cent increase to the minimum wage to help Australia’s lowest-paid people survive high living costs, Burke said the government’s submission to the Fair Work Commission’s annual pay review would not be a does not contain number.
However, he said the public would “see something similar” to Labour’s submission last year, in which it asked the industrial umpire not to allow minimum wage earners to go down the drain.
“The principle we’re putting forward is that the people who do it the hardest for the lowest wages can’t afford to go backwards, and that’s something the Fair Work Commission needs to bear in mind,” he said.
He said the government rejects the argument that inflation is “the fault of ordinary wage earners, and especially low-paid workers”.
“And the concept that somehow they are suddenly responsible for inflation is an argument that is not accepted.”