Release type: Transcript


Weekend Today with Jayne Azzopardi and Tim Davies


The Hon Tony Burke MP
Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations
Minister for the Arts


SUBJECTS: Fair Work Commission's Annual Wage Review decision, historic increase to the minimum wage and awards.

TIM DAVIES, HOST: Almost a quarter of working Australians are about to receive their biggest pay rise in decades, with the Fair Work Commission announcing a 5.75 per cent increase to the minimum wage.

JAYNE AZZOPARDI, HOST: That means that those workers will take home an extra $70 a week, taking their weekly wage from around $812 to more than $882. So, let's bring in the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Tony Burke in Sydney. Good morning to you, Minister.


AZZOPARDI: How important do you think this move is and who is going to benefit?

BURKE: This is a huge decision. We get these decisions every year. This is the largest increase we've had, and for so many people, that's coming just in time for them. The people who receive this, the people who are on the awards, who are on the minimum wage. It's generally, not exclusively, but generally, the lower-paid jobs that people have – they’re the people who found it hardest to make ends meet. We always wait nervously on this.

The Government made a submission arguing that we wanted people to be able to get a good pay rise given what was happening with inflation and were really happy when the Fair Work Commission came through with it yesterday.

DAVIES: But just on that, Tony, it is a big rise, but it doesn't meet inflation. So, workers are still going backwards. Would you have liked to have seen them get more?

BURKE: Our submission - and it's an independent process from the Fair Work Commission. Our submission said we didn't want the lowest paid to go backwards. For the lowest paid, what's come through for them is an 8.6 per cent increase. 8.6 per cent.

For the lowest paid, they don't go backwards. As you move up the award scale, it's a little bit below where inflation is running at right now. But let's not forget in the Budget, the forecast for the next twelve months has inflation getting down to having a three in front of it. Looking ahead we're hopefully getting closer and closer to that point where the wages line going up crosses with the inflation line going down. It's at that point that people really feel they're able to get ahead. But I wouldn't want to think where people would be at if we hadn't got a decision like this yesterday.

AZZOPARDI: We want to get to inflation in a minute. But while this is obviously good news for the workers who are getting the pay rise, on the other hand, we are hearing from some employers, particularly operators of small businesses, that this is going to make things a lot harder for them. Some saying they'll be forced to stop hiring or even letting some staff go. What would you say to that?

BURKE: For individual small businesses, there are things we did in the Budget. There's some targeted energy relief, in the Budget what we’ve done with the tax write-off as well for assets. There's things that we've done that are really good for small business in the Budget. But of all the different pressures that are on business, and, you know, they've got pressures with energy, they've got pressures with supply chains. There's a whole lot of pressures that are there. I think the one area where we've got to make an allowance is those lowest-paid workers.

DAVIES: I'm sure that you've been celebrating this rise, as a lot of people have been, but those celebrations could come to a very abrupt end come Tuesday. Philip Lowe watching all of this very closely. If we do see an interest rate rise, that's going to smack Australian families really, really hard. Are you expecting to see that go up?

BURKE: It's an independent process with the Reserve Bank, so we don't get into the game, as ministers, of second-guessing where that might land. But Phil Lowe himself made the comment during the week where he said to one of the Parliamentary Committees that the Budget – if anything – put downward pressure on inflation.

The actions that Government can take, we are taking. It's also the case, with all the different issues that are impacting inflation, I really hope we don't get into a situation where we start blaming the lowest-paid workers. We've got global energy prices, we've got broken supply chains. There's a whole lot that needs to be acted on and turned around. And for the people who are finding it hardest to make ends meet, surely we can celebrate them getting a pay rise.

There'll always be some people who argue, no matter what, you can't give people a pay rise. We had ten years where we were being told we couldn't have pay rises because interest rates were low, and now people are saying you can't have pay rises because interest rates are high. You need to give people a chance to be able to get a wage that gets closer to being able to meet their bills.