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The war of wages

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison (right) and Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese during the second leaders' debate Image: AAP


The war of wages

Days out from the federal election, wage growth continues to be one of the most contentious issues between the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader. WORDS: AAP.

As almost 250,000 Sunshine Coast voters prepare to take to the polls this Saturday, the war of words on wages has continued.

Wage growth and employment are two big ticket items on the political agenda ahead of what will be the first federal election since the COVID-19 pandemic swept the globe.

Last week Prime Minister Scott Morrison hit out at the federal opposition’s minimum wage rise push, as Anthony Albanese flagged a Labor government would take its time to draft its submission to the industrial umpire.

Mr Albanese said he would support a 5.1 per cent wage increase in line with the highest inflation figure in two decades, but indicated the mechanism by which a Labor government would seek the rise would be determined in coming weeks.

The prime minister branded Mr Albanese’s statement as “reckless”.

“He knows he got that wrong,” Mr Morrison said. “He knows he acted recklessly, and he’s been trying to cover his tracks ever since.”

As of late last week, Mr Morrison had not put a figure on what an appropriate wage rise would be, but warned a rise and its flow-through effect on other wages could trigger higher inflation.

“Any potential support you might have got in wages would be clawed back in even higher interest rates and even higher inflation,” he said. “That’s not how you manage an economy.”

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the independent umpire would make its decision with a complete understanding of the economic consequences.

Mr Albanese hit back, saying his message had been consistent in that he supports a real wage increase and the government couldn’t go over the top of the Fair Work Commission.

“There is a cost of living of everything is going up except for wages. The idea that we would support a real wage cut for people on the minimum wage is an extraordinary claim,” he said.

“What I have said consistently … is if the Fair Work Commission, that operates independently of government, makes a decision to not cut real wages and keep up with the cost of living, that’s something that I would welcome.”

Mr Albanese accused the government of constantly spruiking a strong economy, but acting as if “the sky is falling in” when Labor supports a $1 an hour increase to the minimum wage.

He said a Labor government would have until June 7 to draft a comprehensive submission to the industrial umpire.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) wants the Fair Work Commission to increase the minimum hourly rate by 5.5 per cent to $21.35, while business proposes a three per cent lift.

ACTU secretary Sally McManus recently warned of more industrial action if employers refuse to increase wages amid rising profits and the highest start-up and survival rates in a decade.

“Businesses are not just recovering, they are recovering very well,” she said.

“If employers continue to insist on real wage cuts for workers, and through negotiations they don’t move off that, that’s what brings about strikes.”

But the head of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry said the cost of doing business has also increased, citing Australian Bureau of Statistics data.

“We’ve seen in the last three months … that three out of five businesses have been facing a surge in costs,” Andrew McKellar has told the ABC. “So businesses are facing a very tough time at the moment.”

Meanwhile Mr Morrison has been forced to neutralise Labor’s attack on his character while on the election trail, admitting he can “be a bit of a bulldozer” and needs to change. He agreed he hadn’t got everything right but went further, saying he would change aspects of his prime ministership if re-elected.

“What Australians have needed from me going through this pandemic has been strength and resilience. Now, I admit that hasn’t enabled Australians to see a lot of other gears in the way I work.

“I know Australians know that I can be a bit of a bulldozer when it comes to issues. I know there are things that are going to have to change with the way I do things because we are moving into a different time.”

Debate: the big issues


  • Both leaders committed to not introduce a carbon or mining tax if elected.
  • Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the path to clean energy was not about mandates but about transitioning to ensure reliability in the energy network.
  • Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said Labor had a plan to fix the transmission system by stabilising the energy grid.


  • The two leaders laid out their plans for boosting productivity. Mr Albanese said Labor’s childcare and renewable policy would boost workforce participation, while Mr Morrison said investing in the skills of Australians was the key.


  • A fuel excise cut, one-off payments for seniors and increased tax relief are part of Mr Morrison’s plan to help with cost of living while Mr Albanese has longer term goals to assist with childcare payments and invest in renewable energy to lower power prices.


  • Mr Morrison called his opponent a “complete weather vane” on border protection but Mr Albanese said Labor supported offshore processing, boat turnbacks and settlement in third countries.


  • Mr Morrison said he would bring forward a debate on a bill to establish a federal anti-corruption commission, if he could ensure it would be passed.
  • Mr Albanese promised to introduce legislation for an anti-corruption commission by the end of the year.


  • The Prime Minister said he did not agree with a Liberal MP who reportedly said childcare was “outsourcing parenting”. He said his government wouldn’t promise something they couldn’t deliver and a 90 per cent childcare subsidy for working parents was something all Australians would have to pay for.
  • Mr Albanese said the Prime Minister was wrong to view childcare as a cost rather than an investment in women, families and the economy.

Meet the Candidates

For this special election feature we asked your local candidates to submit 100 words on what they consider to be the most important election issues. You are invited to read their views here.

This is not a comprehensive list.

We have made all effort to contact every candidate – not all responded.

Disclaimer: The views presented here are not the views of the publisher and they do not take responsibilty.


Tony Moore

United Australia Party – Fisher

The people of Fisher have been overlooked for decades, as that’s what happens when you live in a safe seat. The member works tirelessly for the party and their re-election. But our constitution is built on the premise of a representative member, where the people elect their champion. And that’s what I bring – 30 years’ experience in business, 10 years in politics, human services and child protection, as well as professionalism and qualifications in behavioural science (psychology), statutory child protection, an MBA and a master of politics and public policy.


Renay Wells

The Greens – Fisher

I’ve been working in the fashion industry for the last 26 years, designing and producing apparel. Issues around sustainability and ethical practices in my industry and beyond have me fired up! In the balance of power, the Greens will push for an Australian manufacturing revival and publicly owned renewable energy to fight the climate emergency. By making billionaires and big corporations pay their fair share of tax, we can bring dental into Medicare, build public homes so nobody struggles to have a roof over their heads, scrap student debt, and make education, from childcare to university, truly free.


Judene Andrews

Labor – Fisher

I am passionate about the environment and understand the impact climate change has on the health of our people and the planet. I am well aware of the consequences of a decade of policy failure by the LNP. The Sunshine Coast community wants action on climate change. Queensland can be a world leader in renewable energy and we owe it to future generations to act now. I am determined to improve local health, aged care and childcare.  Labor will restore Medicare and build better jobs for future generations, through improved skills training and growing local opportunities.


Andrew Wallace

LNP – Fisher, current MP

Since you elected me in 2016, my mission has been to make Fisher the place to be for education, employment and retirement. This means delivering the roads and rail, the support for small businesses and local manufacturers, and the mental health services locals need to thrive. It also means fighting to protect the unique character of our community.
I have delivered on that mission, securing $5.3 billion in road and rail infrastructure, including $1.6 billion to build rail from Beerwah to Maroochydore. Meanwhile, Labor plays political games.


Wendy Hazelton

Informed Medical Options Party – Fairfax

I support a society in which every citizen shall possess liberty, property and security and none shall be enslaved by ignorance or conformity. I will demand the end of suppression orders that have de-registered the most humane, ethical doctors in Australia. De-registration of AHPRA is a must.  Current government science is no longer believable and the fear mongering must be stopped. I stand for truth, transparency and accountability in science, media and politics.
I will free Australia of the tyranny that has dominated our politics. Free speech will return.


Lisa Khoury

United Australia Party – Fairfax

I am a local resident of 21 years and a commercial jet pilot. For the past two years I have seen our livelihoods, and our treasured Sunshine Coast lifestyle taken away from us by governments that have forgotten a simple truth. Government is there to serve its people. Liberal, Labor and the Greens have created more homelessness, depression, poverty, division, loss of freedoms and a trillion-dollar national debt threatening further our way of life. The United Australia Party has real solutions and a strategy to ensure we protect our country and the people.


Sue Etheridge

The Greens – Fairfax

The Sunshine Coast hinterland has been my home for over 40 years. I’m a small business owner and have extensive experience in banking, finance, accounting and business management. Social change and environmental action go hand in hand. We must de-carbonise our economy while addressing the needs of everyday Australians. By making the big end of town pay their fair share in corporate taxes, we can make sure everyone has somewhere to call home, free health, including dental and mental health, free childcare, lifelong training and education.


Ted O’Brien

LNP – Fairfax, current MP

Our region is receiving more federal government investment than ever, including $3.2 billion for Bruce Highway upgrades, nearly $400 million for rail upgrades, $160 million for the Sunshine Motorway and over $300 million for locals roads and community infrastructure. I’ve also delivered over $13 million for community groups, over $2 million for sporting groups and over $5.5 million for new homeless shelters and support centres. I also want to deliver $1.6 billion for a new heavy passenger rail line to Maroochydore, a design for rail duplication  to Nambour, and a $33 million food and beverage manufacturing hub, plus more.


Tash Poole

Animal Justice Party – Fairfax

My vision is to give animals a voice in the Australian parliament. Imagine a world where animals and people live together in harmony with our planet. A world where we ensure the health of our children, our planet and animals. This is the world the Animal Justice Party wants to create and to make this happen we need political representation that stands up for animals, people and the places we love. The Sunshine Coast has a chance to lead the way in fair and honest policymaking, address climate change and develop a circular economy that will support everyone who calls this place home.


Sue Ferguson

Labor – Fairfax

As a local nurse, I have  spent my working life caring  for people. Under Scott Morrison the community is suffering due to cost of living pressures, housing affordability is out of control, real wage growth has fallen and with interest rates going up, families are struggling. Local families can’t risk more cost hikes with more Morrison, which is why only Labor  will bring down the cost of living by delivering affordable childcare, strengthening Medicare, making it easier to see a doctor and delivering better opportunity for secure work with fair pay. Fairfax has been neglected for far too long and it is time to plan for a better future under Labor.


Nikki Civitarese

One Nation – Fairfax

Our government and the politicians in it are self-serving. We no longer have a voice and our freedoms have been slowly stripped from us. I am standing for the seat of Fairfax to give our community a voice. The two things I will be focusing on when elected are having these mandates completely dropped so people can get back to work, then I will deliver an online platform where I will present to the people of Fairfax all bills put forward in parliament, then they can vote if the bill should be passed or not, and I will vote on the bill they way the majority want me to vote. This creates transparency and holds me accountable.

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