Tuesday, 30 July 2019
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business, Senator Cash. In March this year, the minister's leader in the Senate, Senator Cormann, explained that wages growth is low under the government's watch because 'that is a deliberate design feature of our economic architecture.' Minister, does it remain the Morrison government's policy to see wages stagnant and household incomes go backwards in real terms?
I thank Senator Ciccone for the question and I reject the premise of the question. But what this government does understand and, in particular, what Senator Cormann, as the outstanding Minister for Finance who, along the with Treasurer and now Prime Minister, will deliver a surplus budget, which is something those on the other side have not seen for many, many decades—the one thing Senator Cormann understands is that the way that you do lift wages in Australia—
correct. As he said, it is to have business be more successful. As our colleagues know on this side, when businesses are more successful, they create more jobs for Australians. When there are more jobs—
I'm sorry but again on relevance. The question was very clear: does it remain the government's policy to see wages stagnate and household incomes go backwards in real terms? That's the question.
Senator Watt, it's a very broadly worded question.
Opposition senators interjecting—
Order! This is time for the opposition. If it stops interjecting, I'll make a ruling. Senator Watt, it was a very broadly worded question. I consider the minister to be directly relevant if the minister is talking about wages policy, and I believe she was at that point. I'm listening very carefully.
As I was saying, what Senator Cormann does understand is that governments need to put in place the right economic framework so that businesses can prosper, grow and create more jobs for Australians, which is exactly what this government is doing. Since we were elected to office, the economy under us has created almost 1.4 million jobs. We now have record employment in Australia. We also have the participation rate in Australia at a record high for the second month going. What we will never do to the Australian people is take more money out of their pockets, because that is exactly what the Labor Party were going to do. They talk about slow wages growth—
I rejected the premise of the question outright and I said that what Senator Cormann does understand—what all of us on this side understand—is that the way you increase wages in this country is by having a strong economy. One of the benefits of a strong economy is the creation of more jobs. When the economy creates more jobs, there's less unemployment, and guess what? There's competition for the jobs that are actually out there, which ultimately puts pressure on wages. (Time expired)
Opposition senators interjecting—
Wonderful to have you standing up and asking a question, then, Senator Ciccone! But you would then recall that the decision to actually cut penalty rates in this country was a decision of the Fair Work Commission. The Fair Work Commission, and in particular the president of the Fair Work Commission, was actually appointed by your former Leader of the Opposition Mr Bill Shorten. In fact, many Labor Party members have been part of unions that have done deals with big employers to cut the penalty rates of the relevant employees. So I completely reject the premise of the question. We on this side are focused on growing our economy, because when you grow the economy you create more jobs and you lower unemployment, and that is how wages will ultimately rise.
Again, Senator Ciccone, I completely reject the premise of your question. Almost four million Australians have now lodged their tax returns, and do you know why they've done that? It is because the first piece of legislation that we passed when we were elected to office were the tax cuts for the Australian people that we took to the election, which the Australian people voted for. They will always be better off under a coalition government, in particular when it comes to employment. On this side of the chamber, we understand that it is employers that create jobs, not governments. We put in place the economic framework, and the economic framework under us is leading to a stronger economy. There are more jobs for people who are out there putting their hands up and saying, 'We want to work.'