Wednesday, 3 April 2019
Questions without Notice
My question is to the minister representing the Minister for Jobs and Industrial Relations, Senator Payne. I refer to the Treasurer, who last night told Australians:
… every one of us wants to see wages growing faster.
Can the minister confirm that, in addition to overseeing record-low wage growth, the government last night cut forecast wage growth? If so, by how much?
Depending on the timing of elections and returns to parliament and outcomes, that may be the last charming and engrossing question from Senator Cameron we hear in this place. I think it's important to note that for the record, because we've heard lots of charming and engrossing questions from Senator Cameron over time.
It's interesting that he goes to the question of wages growth. We on this side know one thing about wages growth. The difference between us and them is that you have to have a stronger economy to ensure wages growth. The difference—
I raise a point of order on relevance. I simply asked: can the minister confirm that, in addition to overseeing record low wage growth, the government last night cut forecast wage growth? That's the question. The minister should be drawn to the question.
I think it would be useful to look at actual budget results in the context of Senator Cameron's question. Unlike those opposite, what our budget results have consistently shown is that we have consistently exceeded expectations and that we are delivering a surplus. That would be foreign territory for those opposite, unless they have memories that go back to 1989. Notwithstanding that, we of course operate on the basis of using conservative forecasts—
Those opposite might not like to hear about it and they might not like to think about it but we have maintained our path back to surplus on the back of those forecasts and our spending discipline. We want Australians to earn more and to keep more of what they earn. That's what we're delivering: a stronger economy—1.2 million more jobs created by Australian businesses as part of our stronger economy, with wages growth picking up. The Governor of the Reserve Bank, Phillip Lowe, has said we are seeing a turning point now evident in the wage price index due to the stronger labour market— (Time expired)
In addition to overseeing record-low wage growth and a cut in forecast wage growth, the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government has voted eight times to cut the wages of over 700,000 workers relying on penalty rates. How does cutting wages reflect a commitment to higher wages?
It's question time and the minister has gone directly to having a go at the opposition, which we're used to—we know that's their game plan—but the question is: how does cutting wages reflect a commitment to higher wages?
Senator Cormann interjecting—
Well then, answer that question, Senator Cormann.
As I was saying, this strong economy is what will deliver higher wages. Without a strong economy, you cannot deliver higher wages. I understand why this is unfamiliar territory for those opposite, because they don't have the experience in their term of office to have delivered that. And we know, even from the policies they have exposed so far, that they are promising $200 billion in higher taxes.
Mr President, this minister doesn't have a clue. What we've asked, simply, is: how does cutting penalty rates relate to higher wages? The minister should be drawn to the question. If she doesn't know, she should just say she hasn't got a clue.
Senator Cameron, I recorded part of your question as saying, 'How does cutting wages reflect a commitment to higher wages?' I believe the minister is being relevant to that part of the question. She is talking about higher wages. Senator Payne.
Thank you. I'll tell you who doesn't have a clue, Mr President. Senator Doug Cameron doesn't have a clue. He doesn't have a clue about the impact that $200 billion of higher taxes will have on this country and on this economy. He doesn't have a clue about the impact of their big, new carbon tax, but independent modelling shows it will cost over 300,000 jobs.
Order! Senator Payne. Senator Cameron, a final supplementary question.
Maybe we can do better this time. Last month the Minister for Finance argued that record-low wage growth was a deliberate design feature of the Australian economy. Is the coalition government's decision to cut wages, and continued failure to do anything to address record-low wage growth, a part of its deliberate design to leave Australian workers worse off?
Senator Cameron—consistent to the last—misrepresents government ministers in almost everything he says, and he's just done it again. What the finance minister has made very clear is that the only way to lift wages is a stronger economy built on more jobs and lower taxes. What Senator Cameron is refusing to acknowledge is those men and women who run small businesses, all over Australia, who are living in absolute fear of those opposite being elected and destroying their businesses, destroying the economy, and destroying their future and that of their children.