Prime Minister Scott Morrison has ramped up his attack on Labor’s plan to lift wages, accusing Bill Shorten of forcing businesses to sack people to give others pay rises.
The opposition has hinted at tweaking industrial laws to drive wages up for low-paid workers, while unions are pushing for a $43-a-week rise in the minimum wage.
Mr Morrison said the Labor leader needed to be clear about how many jobs the plan would cost and how many businesses would shut down.
“He’s saying to coffee shop owners and small businesses around the country: ‘sack someone’. That’s his policy – that people should be sacked,” the prime minister told reporters in Melbourne.
“Bill Shorten wants to sacrifice jobs for his politics of envy.”
He said wages would rise through a stronger economy, which allowed businesses to grow and pass on pay increases.
Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen said the comments were typical negativity from Mr Morrison.
“His economic credibility hovers around zero,” Mr Bowen told reporters in Sydney.
“Some people hate all wage increases and the Liberal party hates all wage increases, that’s why we’ve seen wages growth at record lows on their watch.”
Labor is weighing up ways to encourage the Fair Work Commission to take more factors into account to ensure low-paid workers get a living wage, which is 60 per cent of the national median wage.
Mr Bowen said Labor would consult with experts over the best way to ensure the minimum wage was fit for purpose.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions in its annual review wants the commission to lift the minimum wage by six per cent to $762.20 a week, up from $719.20.
ACTU secretary Sally McManus said a 10.7 per cent increase over two years would lift people out of poverty.
“No full-time worker should live in poverty,” she told ABC Radio National on Wednesday.
“If you work 38 hours a week you should earn a living wage, one you can survive on not one that pushes you into poverty.”
Ms McManus said Fair Work should be making minimum wage determinations based on the living wage.
Mr Bowen said Labor was concerned about the living wage but stopped short of endorsing the union position.
“The ACTU and the opposition are not the same thing,” he said.
Employer groups have warned against compromising the independence of the industrial relations tribunal, while also arguing unsustainable pay increases could cost jobs.
“A minimum wage increase of six per cent would be a sure-fire way of destroying jobs, harming businesses, and threatening Australia’s long period of economic growth,” Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox said.
The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Business Council of Australia have also cautioned against unsustainable wage rises.