As a forecasted surge in energy costs threatens to deepen a cost-of-living problem, Australia’s new Treasurer indicated on Wednesday that he wants to see minimum wages rise quickly enough to keep up with rising inflation.
Just days after taking office, Treasurer Jim Chalmers assured reporters that the Labor administration will stick to a pre-election promise to fight for a pay raise equal to the current inflation rate of 5.1 percent.
The independent Fair Work Commission will decide on the minimum wage in the coming weeks, although the government can make a suggestion on the size of the award.
There have been claims that a 5% increase would just contribute to inflation, but Chalmers believes the low-paid, many of whom stayed to work during the epidemic, deserved it.
He also mentioned the pressures in the national energy market, citing how the wholesale price of natural gas has skyrocketed in recent months, resulting in increased bills for customers.
“This perfect storm of energy price surges is wreaking havoc on our employers, our families, and our country’s economy,” Chalmers added.
He was speaking after official figures revealed that the Australian economy expanded by 0.8 percent in the March quarter, compared to 3.3 percent a year before.
While the report had some positive aspects, according to Chalmers, growth was lower than predicted by the previous Liberal National administration, and inflation was substantially greater.
This meant that there were “troubling parts” of the budget that he would outline in a ministerial statement to parliament, albeit he gave no timetable.