MPI: Cost of Living

Wednesday, 01 December 2021

Mr HAWKE (Mitchell—Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs) (15:58): The government welcomes a debate about the economy and certainly about wages and the economic recovery that the government is invested in providing for all Australians. Listening to members of the opposition, the Labor Party is the political party that is supposed to represent the worker. Former heads of the trade union movement come into this parliament regularly and try and dumb down and provide the most simple commentary about industrial relations that you could provide in this country. We heard that from the shadow minister and member for Watson, who tried to maintain that in Australia people are paid $3 an hour, somehow. If someone is paid $3 an hour in this country, that's unlawful and that needs to be reported immediately. And it's wrong to maintain that people have insecure work because they work in a new economy or in new companies that have been advanced in the new economy that we represent. He named a couple of them—Amazon, for example. Amazon, worldwide, employs 1.3 million people, who aren't in insecure work. That's a lot of people for any one enterprise to employ around the world. Uber in Australia employs 86,000 people, who find the pay acceptable and choose to work for Uber because they can choose their hours; they can control their hours.

The members opposite laugh, but that's why this company is successful. They're innovating. This is the new economy. That's not insecure. They're paid Australian wages and they work voluntarily for that company. This is not the Middle Ages. This is not serfdom. The No. 1 reason a person volunteers to work for Uber—this is proven in surveys—is that they can control their working hours. It suits them. They can choose when to work and when not to work. That's the truth of a company like Uber and their employment. Yet the Labor Party rail against it. They say Uber was good in 2012 when it was small but, because it has become successful and big, it's now bad.

Somehow the member for Watson tries to make a link to $3 an hour where there is no link to $3 an hour. In fact, the national minimum wage in Australia, which the member for Watson should know, is $20.33, or $772.60 per week. That's the national minimum wage. As members opposite should know, there are many awards and agreements where the minimum wage is higher than that—in fact, it's the highest minimum wage in the world. It is unlawful to not pay the right wages and awards in Australia. Members opposite try to create a problem that they know is not correct all the time in these discussions. It is wrong to do so.

When I walk around this economy at the moment, what I hear from every business in Australia is that they are critically short of workers. Members all around Australia need more workers. They are offering more money. Without naming them, I have had Labor state ministers in Labor jurisdictions tell me that they are paying well above award wages, sometimes double in various sectors and industries, because they are so critically short, because they need those workers.

What is this government doing about it? That's why we've got more apprentices than we've had for a long time. That's why we're trying to get Australians into jobs first before, in my own portfolio, we bring people from overseas. Our labour market is running red hot. It is a time where we will see, as we have seen, 2.4 per cent higher wages over the year, the strongest growth since 2014. Of course we're going to see higher wages as we continue to go forward, because every employer is desperately short of labour. You can go to almost every sector anywhere in the country and they are demanding labour. We already have the world's highest minimum wages. But people are offering more than our minimum wage in many sectors. This is great news for employees. It is fantastic.

We have the strongest industrial relations and legal framework in the world as well. The Fair Work system the Labor Party likes to rail against was set up by the Labor Party. It was set up by Prime Minister Gillard. The piece rate, which the member for Watson is actually referring to but didn't name, was established by Julia Gillard. The commissioners were all appointed by Labor. You do wonder about the honesty of people coming into this place and suggesting that people are being paid $3 dollars an hour in Australia. It simply isn't true. I think that is a demeaning thing for this country to hear when, actually, we have one of the highest minimum wages in the world, a strong economy, thousands of jobs available right now in almost every single part of this country for anybody who would like to get a job, and employers are looking at paying higher wages as well. We've seen 2.4 per cent increases, the strongest in seven years. Instead of saying, 'That is great news for Australians and we want to see that wages growth continue,' Labor say we've got a terrible system and we have troubles.

The reality is that wages growth will continue to be strong while there is high demand for labour. There will be high demand for labour in the coming years. It is our job as a parliament and as a government to keep the momentum going of getting people job ready, supporting them back into work in those jobs in our regions, suburbs and businesses.