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Transcript of interview: Canberra: 15 August 2018: release of ABS data on wages growth



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THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP

DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING

ACTING SHADOW MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT AND

WORKPLACE RELATIONS

SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN

MEMBER FOR SYDNEY

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

DOORSTOP INTERVIEW

PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA

WEDNESDAY 15 AUGUST 2018

SUBJECT: Release of ABS data on wages growth.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Well thank

you for coming out this afternoon. We've seen Australian Bureau of Statistics

data today dealing with wages growth in Australia and it's disappointing to see

that this Prime Minister retains the dubious distinction of presiding over the

lowest wages growth in Australian history. The most recent data that shows a

0.6 per cent increase over the quarter takes annual wages growth to 2.1 per

cent, the same as the Consumer Price Index, so wages are barely keeping up

with inflation and if you look at private sector wages in fact they're falling behind

inflation. Private sector wages are counting for 85 per cent of workers across

Australia are in fact at 2 per cent per annum which means that they're below

CPI. This Prime Minister and his Government ought to be ashamed of the fact

that they continue to do everything they can to drive down wages, including

measures like the cuts to penalty rates, like their lack of support for increases to

the minimum wage, at the same time as they're trying to shovel billions of

dollars of tax relief out to some of our biggest companies, $17 billion to the

banks alone. At a time when company profits are growing at around 3 times the

rate of wages growth, perhaps the Government should focus a little more on

making sure Australians can make ends meet and a little less on padding out

the profit margins of some of our biggest companies. Any questions?

JOURNALIST: What can be done about this?

PLIBERSEK: Well you actually first of all need a Government that wants to see

decent wages growth. When we were campaigning in these by-elections, when

I'm out in my own electorate doing street stalls and so on on the weekends,

Australians say to me all the time 'we feel like the cost of everything is going

up'. Everything's going up, except our wages. They feel it in their hip pockets.

So the first thing the Government should do is listen to people when they say

it's tough to make ends meet. The second thing they could do, of course, is to

do as Labor is - give up the tax cuts for the big end of town and for high income

earners, and make sure that people on low and middle incomes get bigger tax

cuts. Our proposal is that people on low and middle incomes would get almost

twice the tax cut that the Government is offering them. We can afford to do

that, because we're not giving tax cuts at the big end of town. We also need to,

of course, look at our industrial relations environment. We've got a Government

that supports cuts to penalty rates. Labor, in contrast, says that we would

reverse those penalty rate cuts should we be elected. We've also made a

number of other announcements that support decent wages growth - getting rid

of sham contracting, getting rid of the zombie agreements that are left over from

WorkChoices, making sure that people who are classed as casual are actually

casual workers, licensing labour hire firms and making sure that people who are

hired through these labour hire arrangements are on the same pay and

conditions as the permanent workforce. We need to have an industrial relations

system that supports a fair day's pay for a fair day's work.

JOURNALIST: It's the largest quarterly increase we’ve had since March 2014

and economists believe we're on track for another increase in September, so

surely something is working?

PLIBERSEK: Well, look, any increase is welcome, but this is a minor increase

in the scheme of things. We still have private sector wages growing slower than

inflation. We've got significant under-employment across the Australian

economy. We've got unemployment rates that are higher than they ought to be,

given the global economy that we've got at the moment. I don't think these are

figures that the Government should be taking comfort in. We need to do better.

JOURNALIST: In this context, if company tax cuts don't pass the Senate this

fortnight, should the Government bring forward personal income tax cuts?

PLIBERSEK: Well, they could adopt Labor's policy. Our tax cuts, our personal

income tax cuts, give much greater benefit to millions of Australians, almost

twice the tax cut to millions of Australians on low and middle incomes.

JOURNALIST: And the data today shows us that Western Australia and the

Northern Territory seem to have the most modest wage growth across the year.

Any insights as to why that might be?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think the Western Australian and Northern Territory

Governments would be the first to say that the tailing off of the construction

phase of the mining boom is affecting employment, including wages growth in

those economies.

JOURNALIST: And also on wages, wondering if you have any thoughts on the

Fair Work Commission's decision today that the Ombudsman has been

miscalculating the amount of personal leave owed to some people who are

doing long shifts?

PLIBERSEK: Yes, I think we just need to listen to the independent umpire in

that respect, and I don't propose to make any other comments. OK thanks

everyone.

ENDS

MEDIA CONTACT: DAN DORAN 0427 464 350

Authorised by Noah Carroll, ALP, Canberra.