Push for rise in wages, more workplace changes flagged
The government maintains it wants to see the lowest-paid Australians keep up with the cost of living as it pours cold water on suggestions a wages boost would spike inflation.
Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke said the government is not putting a number on what it believes the Fair Work Commission should raise wages by, only saying their vision was "for people on the minimum wage to not go backward".
He said there were a range of incomes on different awards so a blanket number didn't need to be put in place and could be tapered across different sectors.
"There's a big range of incomes there, you don't need to have the same percentage for everyone," he told Sky News on Sunday.
"If ... you're out there working but you're on the lowest rates of pay, where are you meant to cut? Are you meant to skip a meal?"
Mr Burke said there was no indication Australia was heading towards a wage-price spiral, where wage increases spike inflation, which in turn leads to the need for higher wages.
"Wages aren't the only pressure on inflation," he said, noting the government had worked to ease cost-of-living pressures through cheaper childcare and medicines as well as limiting power bill increases.
The minister said the government was also working to close a loophole that allowed businesses to pay labour hire workers less for the same jobs as employees.
He said it was unfair a company could negotiate an agreement with employees and then undercut wages at the same workplace through a loophole.
"Workers should get the same treatment, if there are loopholes that are undercutting their rates of pay, government needs to act and we will," he said.
But there are concerns cracking down on labour hire could impact the viability of small businesses, which would struggle to pay the increase in wages bills.
"We do not grow the economy, we do not get inflation under control, we do not keep our standard of living unless businesses in this country stay viable and sustainable," Nationals senator Bridget McKenzie said.
"Private enterprise runs the joint and we need to make sure they are able to be prosperous so they can continue to employ Australians."
Senator McKenzie said labour hire companies played a vital role, especially in plugging gaps in a tight labour market.
"So I'd want to see the detail," she said of the flagged legislation.
"There are significant concerns about making sure we link productivity gains to wage increases."
Mr Burke said the government will continue to consult with the industry and stakeholders.