Australians Deserve a Pay Rise

Anthony Albanese Pay Rise Australians Australian government Labour Party

Australians are a hard-working lot.

From factory floors to hospital wards and office towers, workers put in. They get on with the job so they can look after themselves and their families.

In return for their hard work, Australians expect fair pay and that their wage will keep up with the cost of living so we can get ahead. It is part of the social compact.

But right now, wages are going backwards. The small pay rises we get are more than wiped out by inflation driving up the cost of living.

None of this will surprise anyone who manages the family budget or spends any time in supermarkets and petrol stations. It really does seem that everything is going up except our wages.

Since the Coalition took office in 2013, wages have increased by 18 per cent.

But the price of beef has increased 64 per cent. Fruit and vegetable prices rose 22 per cent, childcare 44 per cent and health costs 33 per cent.

The cost of a leg of lamb for a Sunday roast is up 49 per cent since the Coalition took over. And if you want to wash it down with a cold beer, the price of your favourite brew has climbed by 26 per cent.

It shouldn’t be like this.

But Scott Morrison is happy with the situation. Back in 2019, former finance minister Mathias Cormann said low wage growth was “a deliberate design feature of our economic architecture’’ so that jobs are not threatened.

That is a lazy cop-out from a political outfit that thinks governments have no role to play in managing the economy in the national interest.

Businesses can increase wages without cutting jobs.

Productivity is the key.

If our economy becomes more productive – if we can produce more from the same inputs – both sides of the workplace equation can be winners.

A Labor Government will tackle wage stagnation head on in consultation with business, trade unions and other levels of government. We’ll convene a Jobs Summit to get these groups around a table and hammer out a new Australian productivity program that also includes measures to improve security of work and remove impediments to full employment.

Co-operation and collaboration work.

In the 1980s and 1990s the Hawke and Keating Labor governments extracted real productivity gains by encouraging employers and unions to work together.

Profits went up. So did wages.

Productivity growth has stalled on Scott Morrison’s watch. The Government’s own Productivity Commission has reported labour productivity was 0.56 per cent in 2019/20 – well below is long-run average.

During nearly a decade in office, the Coalition has had no productivity agenda. And instead of fostering workplace collaboration, they have stoked conflict to satisfy their ideological distaste for the union movement.

This must change. Australians deserve a government that sees wages growth as an objective, not a problem.

There is more the government can do to boost productivity.

It can start with appropriate investment in roads and railways that reduce congestion and allow people and goods to move about more efficiently. This can reduce the cost of doing business.

However, the Morrison Government has wasted scarce infrastructure funding by rorting grants funds to curry favour in marginal seats.

We’ve had Sports Rorts and Carpark Rorts – both condemned by the Auditor General. And the Government put aside $16 billion for decisions made but not yet announced, funding people could reasonably expect given Mr Morrison’s form, will be used for pork barrelling in the coming election.

Mr Morrison has totally ignored reform of government regulation to reduce the cost of doing business.

Regulatory reform is critical to productivity.

Anthony Albanese Pay Rise Australians Australian government Labour Party

For many years prior to the election of the current government, prime ministers from both sides of politics worked with state governments and local government to reduce costs for business by cutting red tape.

As transport minister in the previous Labor Government, I worked with my state and territory counterparts to reduce the number of transport regulators sector from 23 to just three.

Streamlining the system created a $30 billion dividend for the national economy over the following two decades.

The Morrison Government has no record of regulatory reform. Indeed, it abolished the Council of Australian Governments, which, since 1992, had been the key vehicle for regulatory reform in this country.

When governments work together, they can achieve much for our nation across a range of fronts.

However, as we have seen during the Covid pandemic, Mr Morrison’s habit is to pick fights with Labor state governments, rather than working with them for national progress.

I have no interest in unnecessary conflict. I want outcomes that serve Australians in the way they live their daily lives.

After nearly a decade of inaction on productivity and regulatory reform, there is no prospect that the Liberals and Nationals will suddenly discover these concepts if they are re-elected.

Australia needs a government with the ideas and energy to reignite wage growth, ease cost of living pressures and provide a better future for Australian families.

We’ve already announced plans for direct help, including making childcare affordable, strengthening Medicare and providing free TAFE courses in areas of workforce shortage.

We will also do the hard work on economic reform to generate sustained economic growth that can provide benefits for the many, not just the few.

Anthony Albanese is the Leader of the Australian Labor Party


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