Tuesday, 13 June 2017
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Brandis. I refer to the latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics which shows that annual wage growth stands at just 1.9 per cent. Can the minister confirm that wages growth remains at the lowest levels since the Australian Bureau of Statistics first started publishing the data in 1997?
Senator Cameron, of course, I cannot confirm that, because I do not have the historical figures in front of me. However, Senator Cameron, what I can tell you is: it is for the very reason that we want Australians to have stronger wages, higher wages and better conditions that we have brought forward one of the most important signature reforms of the Turnbull government, and that is our enterprise tax plan. What that plan does by lowering the tax burden progressively on small businesses and then medium-sized businesses and then, ultimately, all businesses is to put more money at their disposal so that they can employ more people and they can pay better wages to the people they do employ. That is the point. I know socialists like you, Senator Cameron, will never understand this, but the key to prosperity, the key to higher wages, the key to more jobs is prosperous businesses. If the government can take less of a company's income for the revenue and leave that money in the company so that it can employ more people or pay higher wages to the people who it already employs then that is the way to spread the wealth. That is why we have put the enterprise tax plan at the centre of our economic reform policy. That is how you will get higher wages and that is how you will get more jobs.
Can the minister confirm that, with headline inflation growing at 2.1 per cent over the year to March, the Turnbull government is now presiding over declining real wages and increasing inequality?
As a matter of fact, Senator Cameron, that is not the trend. Over the past three years wages growth has been higher than CPI, indicating that there has been a growth in wages in both real and nominal terms, and that has been one of the key drivers in the improvements of living standards. Wages in the March quarter of 2017 are up 7.9 per cent since the September quarter of 2013. Over that period there has been an increase in the CPI of 6.3 per cent. Over the past three years wages have risen at an average annual rate of 2.1 per cent, whereas the CPI has risen at an average annual rate of 1.6 per cent.
Senator, there is no point in getting your colleague Senator Farrell to base a question that he asked me a few moments ago— (Time expired)
The Turnbull government's May budget assumes that wages growth will double from its current record low to 3.75 per cent. How does the government expect to achieve these results when the centrepiece of its wages policy is to support a pay cut for up to 700,000 workers who rely on Sunday penalty rates?
Senator Cameron, if I may finish the point I was making at the end of my answer to your primary question, there is no point in getting your colleague Senator Farrell to ask me a question based on trends and then, in response to your question, refuse to accept that the trend is the appropriate measure rather than picking out one quarter which is contradictory to the trend. Senator, the fact is that over the last three years wages have outpaced inflation. That is a reality.
Senator Cameron, let me come to the assertion you make, which is false, that the government has argued against penalty rates for Sunday workers. That is simply not the case. What we do is we respect the independence of the Fair Work Commission, the independent umpire—created by your government to be the independent umpire—and so should you. (Time expired)