Huge problem with wages growth means Australians are suffering desperately

30 October 2019


Senator McCARTHY (Northern TerritoryDeputy Opposition Whip in the Senate) (15:13): We saw Senator Gallacher ask Minister Cormann in question time about the economy, but the reality is that the figures show that business confidence in this country is dropping and is so low that businesses in the north have had to travel here to remind the parliamentto talk to the Prime Minister and ministersabout the serious needs of businesses, in particular in northern Australia. NAB chief economist Alan Oster said that it looks like the tax cuts have had little impact on household consumption or have not been large enough to offset increasing weakness in the retail sector.

This isn't about hitting the government over the head constantly just for the fun of it. The reality is that people out there are suffering desperately. Wages growthor lack thereofis impacting family lives. We hear senators stand up in this chamber to talk about the importance of having a family, having a house and being able to raise your children. Senators, let me tell you that there are thousands of Australians in this country who certainly want to do that and who desperately need to do that. But when they are on Newstart without any increase at all, or when they are on CDP, the Community Development Program, receiving $11 an hour, how can they? When people in our businesses in the retail sectorthe workers who lose their penalty ratescannot look after their families, that is what you're talking aboutthe Australians who are missing out in this country, the Australians who need to know that this parliament and this government care.

Instead, you block your ears, you block your hearts and you close your eyes. You do not want to see the impact of withholding all that you do, in terms of the amount of money that can flow to these families across this country. You withhold that, and you give all sorts of reasons in this Senate why you should. You talk about your tax cuts, but we know that they are not being felt. We've heard from the economists. We've seen the data in August in relation to the wages situation.

Let's have a look at the families on CDP in this country: 33,000 people. We were told during the last term of government that you would find 6,000 jobs for those 33,000 people. Where are those jobs? Those same people are still on $11 an hour. How can they look after their families? How can they afford groceries and power bills or to put fuel in their vehicles? And now you talk about changes to other social payments and you want to drug-test those people? You are pushing the poorest peoplethe most disadvantaged people in this countryeven further down, and you refuse to see it.

If we are so successful in this country with the kind of surplus that you're pushing for, it's not showing. It is not showing in the lives of these Australians. It is not showing in the infrastructure that we require in northern Australia. Infrastructure Australia provides millions of dollars in southern Australia. But, in the north, we are desperate for the support to build the roads we need so that those people who live out on those farming properties in the Barkly, in Central Australia and over in the VRD region can get their cattle to market and get their families to school. They're the Australians that we need you to focus on. Don't come in here and say that there isn't a problem with wages in this country; there is a very big problem, and you are continually enabling the disadvantage of those Australians.

LINK: Read the full Hansard transcript.