Trainwreck interview turns into farce
IT MIGHT have been the fastest backflip in political history.
Newly promoted Cabinet minister Linda Reynolds took just 16 seconds to completely reverse her position on wage growth during an interview on Sky News yesterday.
Host David Speers asked Ms Reynolds about her colleague Mathias Cormann's comments that wage flexibility was a "deliberate feature" of the government's policies.
"Do you agree with the sentiment that flexibility in wages, and keeping wages at a relatively modest level, is a deliberate feature of our economic architecture to actually drive jobs growth?" Speers asked.
Ms Reynolds mistook the proposition as an argument from Labor leader Bill Shorten, rather than one of her own colleagues.
"No I don't. No, absolutely not. And for Bill Shorten to even suggest that, I think, shows a fundamental lack of understanding about economics," she said.
"Well I'm actually quoting Mathias Cormann, the finance minister, here. Your colleague. He says that wage flexibility is 'a deliberate feature of our economic architecture'," Speers said.
"He's absolutely right," Ms Reynolds replied.
Two contradictory answers, 16 seconds apart.
"But again my point is though, is for Bill Shorten, if you want wages growth, you need to have a strong economy and you need to have a growing economy," Ms Reynolds continued.
"So while he's focused on the issue of wages, and really when he's talking about wages, what is Bill Shorten actually talking about? He's talking about the politics of envy."
.@David_Speers: Do you agree flexibility in wages and keeping wages at a modest level is a deliberate feature of our economic architecture? @lindareynoldswa: No absolutely not. For Bill Shorten to even suggest that...— Sky News Australia (@SkyNewsAust) March 10, 2019
DS: I'm quoting Mathias Cormann.https://t.co/aYBwbeRGPk pic.twitter.com/SSKF51zw06
Mr Cormann made his initial comments on Friday as he sought to link wage flexibility to the unemployment rate.
"The fact that wages growth, in the context of low inflation, has been lower than previously has helped to ensure that the unemployment rate goes down to 5 per cent," he said.
"The alternative would have been to have lower wages growth and higher unemployment, which would have been very disruptive for many families around Australia.
"This is an incredibly important point. The whole reason why it is important to have flexibility in the labour market, the whole point (is) it is important to ensure wages can adjust in the context of economic conditions, is to avoid massive spikes in unemployment.
"That is a deliberate feature of our economic architecture."
Labor has seized on Ms Reynolds' interview to tell voters the government wants to "keep your wages low".
"This was a shambolic interview. But with a very clear message: the Liberal Party wants to keep your wages low," Shadow Finance Minister Jim Chalmers said.
"This is yet another Liberal minister confirming that stagnant wages are a deliberate design feature of their economic strategy.
"No matter how many Liberal ministers humiliate themselves on TV, their policy is clear and their message to Australians is clear. They want your wages to be stagnant. They want your wages to be low."
Mr Shorten wants to restore penalty rates, review the wages of feminised industries typically paid less, and clamp down on wage theft. It is also pushing for a higher minimum wage.
The government says mandating a particular wage level would "force more Australians onto the unemployment queues".
Meanwhile, wage growth will be one of the key issues when thousands of workers strike on April 10 at the behest of the trade unions.
Australian Council of Trade Unions Secretary Sally McManus announced the nationwide rallies on Thursday, and is expecting more than 250,000 people to show up.
"We are suffering an incomes recession. Our wages are going backwards because of inaction by our government. Inaction about the minimum wage, inaction about penalty rates - in fact they support the cutting of penalty rates," Ms McManus said.
"There is so much governments can do to make jobs more secure, and that is what we are demanding.
"If we do not take action as a country now, we will end up Americanising our society. We will end up in a situation where working people have to work two, three, four jobs to support themselves and their families."
The April 10 date means the protests would take place eight days after the federal budget is delivered, and around the start of the election campaign.