Monday, 11 September 2023
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister Representing the Treasurer, Senator Gallagher. Minister, since the Albanese Labor government took office 16 months ago, getting wages moving again has been a top priority. At a time when cost of living is an issue for Australians, we know that better wages will help to ease the pressure on household budgets. What measures has the government already delivered that will get more people into work and see them get better wage outcomes?
The reality is that, under the former government, wages were growing at 2.4 per cent for average workers, and they are now increasing by 3.9 per cent in the first year of the Albanese government. Workers are always better off under a Labor government, because they know that we have their back, that we care about the wages they earn, because we know what a difference it makes every day and every week, when you're putting your household budget together, if you are seeing improvements in your wages and improvements in the security of your jobs. That's what those opposite spent 10 years undermining. They undermined wage increases. They undermined job security. And we are here in yet another area cleaning up the mess that was left behind by those opposite.
The average worker is earning $1,400 more a year under the wages increases under our government than if wages had continued to grow in the way they had been growing under the former government, at just 2.4 per cent. That's $1,400 more for the average worker to help pay their bills, put food on the table and deal with some of those cost-of-living increases. So, workers are better off from wages under this government, and they always will be. Those opposite spent their whole time trying to undermine them and make sure wages went backwards. (Time expired)
Thank you, Minister. You just outlined an impressive record on wages for the first 16 months of this government. We know the Albanese Labor government is not wasting a day in supporting the economy. But there is more work to be done. What is next on the government's agenda to boost productivity growth and keep wages moving in the right direction?
While a lot has been done, we know there is a lot more to do. That's why we're working on expanding the productive capacity of the economy, another area where we inherited the worst productivity growth for the past 60 years—which just so happened to coincide with the decade that those opposite were in charge, turning up and doing nothing, as usual.
We are now rebuilding Australia's industrial capacity through the National Reconstruction Fund, supporting the transformation to net zero—again, something that's still controversial for those opposite—and building a bigger and better trained workforce through our skills agreement. We're leveraging capital and lifting investment. We're delivering more-efficient markets. We're reforming our economic institutions. We turn up every day to work in the national interests of this country. We don't miss an opportunity. There's a lot to do to improve productivity across this economy, but this government is focused on it, as we are on wages and conditions for working people.
The former government had low wages growth as a deliberate design feature of their economic architecture, which resulted in a decade of wage stagnation for Australians. How does the Albanese government's productivity agenda, with a focus on getting wages moving again, differ from that of the former Liberal-National government?
Remember those opposite, when there was talk of minimum-wage workers getting an increase of $1 a day, saying how the world was going to end, that the sky was going to fall in? That tells you everything you need to know about the policies of those opposite. Unlike them, we want to see strong, sustainable wages growth as part of the solution to cost-of-living challenges in our economy. We don't see it as part of the problem. By delaying consideration of the closing-loopholes bill, those opposite are now delaying further pay increases for mine and aviation workers.
But should we be surprised? This is in their DNA—to make sure wages are kept low and conditions are in favour of the employer, not the employee. They're delaying minimum standards that will save the lives of gig workers. They voted to trap permanent casuals in insecure work for longer. They voted to delay the criminalisation of wage theft. They've spent their entire time in government keeping wages low and holding workers back, and nothing's changed with them in opposition.