Private Members' Business - Economy: Wages Growth

I thank the member for Corangamite for bringing this motion forward. This motion is clear. It concisely outlines matters on the public record about the Morrison government's incompetent mismanagement of wage growth, and it points back to one key point: this government's inability to manage the economy, through failing to recognise the importance of wages growth. Under the coalition, Australians have endured eight years of record lows in wages growth. We've seen more than 40 consecutive incorrect forecasts, overestimating wages growth through seven Liberal budgets and seven updates. They always announce higher wages, but they never deliver them. Last month we saw in black and white on page 9 on the budget a cut to real wages over the next four years.

This Liberal government has condemned Australia to our weakest annual growth in wages on record, and it has done so deliberately. Former finance minister Mathias Cormann admitted on TV that low wages are 'a deliberate design feature' of coalition economic architecture—deliberate. And we know why. To the Liberals, Australian workers are just a business cost to be kept as low as possible. They believe this releases more money for business owners to invest. We heard it right there from the member for Chisholm: 'You can have either low unemployment or high wages, but you can't have both.' So she wants to condemn this country to a low-wage future. That's their vision for this country.

We saw in the parliament today the Treasurer extolling the virtues of, apparently, a booming economy under his stewardship, but it's a different story he was telling the Fair Work Commission as the government fought the minimum wage case, saying that they can't afford a decent rise in the minimum wage because of 'uncertain outlook in the economy'. So they're telling the parliament one thing—that the place is going gangbusters—but, in the documents that they provide to officials, there's an uncertain outlook for the future. So which is it? Get your story straight.

On this side of the House, we have been listening to this rubbish for 120 years. It's why we exist as a political party. We were born out of shearers' demands for a livable wage from wealthy pastoralists, and nothing has changed in 120 years. The Liberals are the party of low wages. That's bad for workers and it's bad for the economy. It constrains consumption and it dampens confidence.

This government has handed down a budget predicting low growth, low productivity, low workforce participation and a real wages cut. They've been in power for eight long years, and it shows. They have no plan for the country—only a plan for their own re-election. This government's incompetence is on full display every day: the economy, the vaccine rollout, aged care, Defence contracts, infrastructure rorts and the failure to create an integrity commission. Their self-styled credibility as the supposed better economic managers is in tatters. You wouldn't trust this trillion-dollar debt Treasurer with a tuckshop tin, let alone the national accounts.

Their bungling has dire consequences. As I stand before you, Tasmanians are particularly feeling the pinch. We are facing myriad challenges: housing, tourism and infrastructure, just to name a few. Last month's federal budget provided no path forward for my state. There were stagnant wages and funding cuts for tourism and hospitality. The budget documents reveal real wages declining over the next two years. This is a failure of economic management. How can this government stand by and watch as workers and pensioners struggle with the rising cost of living? We have mothers skipping meals and working extra jobs to make ends meet. We have 3,800 Tasmanians on the emergency housing list. We've had 376 hospitality workers in Tasmania fleeced by their employers to the tune of $580,000 in unpaid wages. Is that the government's vision for the future of Australia? Low wages and wages theft—that's the legacy of the government, and they want more of it. They advocate for more job insecurity, more casualisation and more temporary work visas.

A Labor government under the opposition leader, Anthony Albanese, will develop laws to criminalise wage theft. Labor will protect gig workers from being underpaid and end the labour hire rorts that undercut wages and conditions. Australians deserve a government that is on their side, prioritising good, secure, well-paid jobs with fair pay and conditions. These are the values that built this country. These are the values that Labor will protect.