LIVE – Updated at 06:52
Back in Senate estimates, The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has assured senator Claire Chandler that no “sensitive areas” were taken off the negotiating table with India in a bid to hasten on-going trade negotiations.
Chandler’s inquiry follows confirmation yesterday from the department that the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, privately raised alleged human rights issues with Narendra Modi during his recent visit, despite not raising them publicly.
Frances Lisson from the Department told estimates Australia had agreed with India to enter a trade agreement “as soon as possible,” which she hopes means it will be done by the end of the year.
The world’s fastest growing economy, India is a negotiating a number of free trade agreements at the moment and Lisson said Australia had secured “priority status”:
We are in talks with India at the moment over the scope of the issues, we haven’t taken anything off the table.
– By Samantha Jonscher
PM comments on Ben Roberts-Smith defamation ruling
The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, speaking in Singapore, has been asked about the impact of the Ben Roberts-Smith defamation ruling on Australia’s international standing.
The prime minister responded cautiously:
The determination that was made yesterday is a determination of a civil proceeding between two parties… It would be inappropriate to comment on the detail of that given the potential that is then there for future action that the government might be a party to.
Albanese went on to express Australia’s commitment to act on the Brereton report into alleged war crimes, which followed a four-year-long inquiry and was released in late 2020:
Can I say, though, that the Brereton inquiry and report – we are committed as a government to implementing the recommendations to the extent possible. That is an area where we have a responsibility – we have indicated very clearly we will take up that responsibility.
Albanese also argued Australia’s International standing, including that of the Australian defence force, is “extraordinarily strong”.
Mark McGowan arrives for final day as WA premier
Meanwhile, in Western Australia the outgoing premier, Mark McGowan, has arrived at the state government’s office, Dumas House, for his final day on the job.
On arrival, McGowan was interviewed by the media from inside his car – still wearing his seatbelt – in what can only be described as the opposite of a doorstop.
Victorian private schools to be stripped of payroll tax exemption will be lower than forecast: Andrews
Victoria’s premier, Daniel Andrews, has confirmed the number of private schools set to be stripped of their longstanding payroll tax exemption will be lower than forecast in last week’s budget.
According to the budget, 110 “high-fee” private schools would be stripped of their payroll tax exemption from mid-2024, raising more than $420m over three years.
But amid strong resistance from independent and Catholic schools about the changes, Andrews has just told a budget estimates hearing the number of schools to be affected will be lower than forecast.
Perhaps there should have been some better footnotes around this item in the budget. I’ll fully concede that point.
Andrews says the education minister is consulting with schools to come up with a new definition of what a “high-fee” school will be:
I’m not in a position to confirm what it will finish up at, but it will go up … There’ll be less than 110 schools … and the overall revenue that is derived from this measure will almost certainly be less than what has been forecast.
Albanese releases statement after meeting with Singapore’s acting PM
The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, has released a statement after his meeting with Singapore’s acting prime minister, Lawrence Wong Shyun Tsai.
The pair discussed Australia and Singapore’s perspectives on the regional strategic outlook, the deep and abiding defence relationship, expanding trade and investment ties and growing cooperation on food and energy security, as well as progress made under the Green Economy Agreement.
This visit has been an opportunity to affirm our friendship, and map the next steps to implement our new Australia Singapore-Green Economy Agreement.
We are ambitious for what we can achieve together on the path to net zero, pushing boundaries and setting new standards to drive green trade and investment.
My visit to Singapore was an opportunity to look ahead with ambition for the next phase of this important relationship.
Southeast Asia and Asean matters to Australia – that’s why I’m here this week. We are tied together by more than geography – we are linked by family, friends, business, education, tourism and a shared interest in the stability of the region into the future.
I look forward to outlining Australia’s commitment to a better future for our region at the Shangri-La Dialogue this evening.
Coles takes another $25m provision to repay underpaid staff
Coles has set aside another $25m to repay the salaried supermarket managers it inadvertently underpaid for years, AAP reports.
“Coles apologises unreservedly to affected team members,” the supermarket giant said in a statement on Friday.
Coles had already taken a $25m provision for underpaying staff in 2021 and is facing both a federal court proceeding by the Fair Work Ombudsman and a separate class-action lawsuit related to the matter.
The supermarket said it had “worked diligently” in relation to these issues and was making the remediation “following further consideration of the issues as they have evolved”.
The underpayments apparently occurred because Coles was not paying its salaried supermarket store managers enough to cover their minimum lawful entitlements, given that they were working significant overtime.
In recent years Woolworths, Qantas, BHP, the ABC, Super Retail Group, Michael Hill Jewellers, Rockpool Dining Group, Domino’s Pizza and Sunglass Hut have all admitted paying staff in violation of Australia’s highly complicated system of industrial wage awards.
A positive RAT test may have been all the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, had to show for his aborted meeting with the Singaporean prime minister who contracted Covid-19 – but we’ve gotten the classic diplomatic snaps from his encounters with the acting prime minister and president.
As a side note, while Albanese is away overseas his Sydney home is being opened to the public tomorrow for those who fancy a picnic and tour of Kirribilli House.
While Kirribilli House is the Prime Minister’s official residence in Sydney, the Australian people are its true custodians.
Along with Admiralty House, Kirribilli House grounds and gardens will be open to the public from 10:00am – 2:00pm.
Since 1957, Kirribilli House has been a Commonwealth property for special occasions and official purposes, including as an official residence. Countless international dignitaries have visited for bilateral talks and official events.
Visitors are welcome to bring a picnic and enjoy views of Sydney Harbour.
Thanks for your attention this Friday as we followed the ongoing reactions to the ruling in Ben Roberts-Smith’s defamation case as well as the annual wage increase review by the Fair Work Commission. Still plenty more to come, but that’s it from me – Josh Taylor will be bringing you the rest.
War Memorial may consider adding ‘content and context’ to Ben Roberts-Smith‘s uniform display
The Australian War Memorial has responded to calls to remove Ben Roberts-Smith’s uniform from display in the wake of the defamation case ruling, saying it is “considering carefully the additional content and context to be included in these displays”.
In a statement issued moments ago, the Australian War Memorial chair, Kim Beazley, said on behalf of the Australian War Memorial Council:
The Memorial assists in remembering, interpreting and understanding Australia’s experience of war and its enduring impact. This includes the causes, conduct and consequences of war.
The Memorial acknowledges the gravity of the decision in the Ben Roberts-Smith VC MG defamation case and its broader impact on all involved in the Australian community.
This is the outcome of a civil legal case, and one step in a longer process.
Collection items relating to Ben Roberts-Smith VC MG, including his uniform, equipment, medals and associated art works, are on display in the Memorial’s galleries.
We are considering carefully the additional content and context to be included in these displays.
The Memorial acknowledges Afghanistan veterans and their families who may be affected at this time.
‘A lot of packing’: McGowan on final day as WA premier
McGowan says he hasn’t had any second thoughts on stepping down as the state’s leader:
I don’t have second thoughts. I’m not regretting it.
As for how he’ll be spending his final day in the top job, the answer is unsurprisingly bureaucratic: in a lot of meetings – with a spot of morning tea.
Resigning has a lot of work attached to it, I tell you.
A lot of packing, and meetings and farewells and morning teas. There’s still signing and all that sort of thing to be done.
It’s an interesting experience. I haven’t resigned from a job since I left the navy, what, 27 years ago, so I’m a bit out of practise.
Ben Roberts-Smith resigns from Channel Seven
Ben Roberts-Smith has resigned from Seven, where he has been the general manager of Seven Queensland since 2015.
The managing director and chief executive officer James Warburton has told staff Roberts-Smith has offered his resignation.
Warburton said in an email seen by Guardian Australia:
As you’re all aware, the judgement in the defamation case was handed down yesterday.
Ben has been on leave whilst the case was running, and today has offered his resignation, which we have accepted.
We thank Ben for his commitment to Seven and wish him all the best.
Australia will have a warmer winter than average
Senior climatologist with the BoM Brad Jackson said Australians can expect a warmer winter than average.
Talking through the BoM’s winter forecast, Jackson said:
At the moment, the chance of exceeding median rainfall is reasonably low throughout the bulk of Australia, and across the snowy mountains, New South Wales, Victoria, sort of Queensland, South Australia.
The only areas likely to receive average, or above average rainfall, is around north-west Western Australia.
Jackson said many slopes may need to make more of their snow this year to combat the higher temperatures.
Works have been paused at Melbourne’s West Gate Tunnel after a minor collapse of rock and soil at the site.
Victoria records 50 Covid deaths and 464 people in hospital
There were 8,669 new cases in the weekly reporting period, and 14 people are in intensive care.
Those figures are down significantly from last week’s 10,642 cases and 63 deaths, which were the highest since January.
Tim Pallas asked about Victorian government’s future PwC contracts
Yes, Victoria’s budget estimates are still going. Greens MP, Ellen Sandell, just tried asking the treasurer, Tim Pallas, about the PwC scandal, namely how much the government spent last financial year on the consultancy firm and how much it plans to use them going forward?
Pallas avoided answering the question – saying that after they returned from the morning break the hearings were supposed to focus on his industrial relations portfolio:
If you wanted to ask questions about consultancies, I think you missed your opportunity in the treasury portfolio presentation.
Sandell then asks if the government will commit to freezing any future contracts with PwC?
Pallas gives her a little bit more on this one:
I don’t want to waste your time, so I’ll try and answer the question as fairly as I can. The government sees the allegations made with regard to PwC, they’re quite serious and we will be looking at the behaviour and I might say in terms of our contractual arrangements, behaviour is taken into account when any such contracts are entered into. So it will be a consideration into the future and we’ll be looking for assurances that the preservation and confidentiality of information that’s been gathered is not being used for anything other than the basis under which it has been put together under retention for the state.
Victoria’s budget estimates update
We’re back after a short morning break. Nationals MP, Danny O’Brien, is asking Tim Ada – the secretary of the department of jobs, skills, industry and regions – about his department’s involvement in the energy minister’s 12-day trip to northern Europe and the premier’s trip to China, which were both in March.
I believe we were consulted … but we weren’t explicitly involved in administering the trips. Our commissioners are both based in Europe and the United Kingdom would have played a significant role in those trips and it’s probably a question for the other secretaries in the department in terms of payment for those trips.
Asked if the premier met with anyone from the Chinese government with respect to debt financing, Ada said it was a question for the premier and his department.
Liberal MP, Nick McGowan, is next up. He asks Ada how much he’s paid – he says in the order of $500k – and how long he’s been in the job – two months. McGowan then asks how much leave he’s taken since he took on the job. Ada replies:
I had obviously worked in the department of premier and cabinet for four years before taking on this role. I had booked some leave with my family prior to being appointed to this role. And I think I’ve had six days of recreation leave since I’ve started and that’s because they were booked family commitments before I was interviewed and appointed for this role.
Trade minister invites South Korea to join Pacific trade alliance
Trade minister Don Farrell has extended an invitation to South Korea to join a Pacific trade alliance as China and Taiwan push for entry, AAP reports.
Farrell revealed he extended the invitation for South Korea to apply for entry to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership during his most recent meeting with his counterpart in the US.
He said Seoul was yet to make an application but “they have taken it onboard seriously”.
“That’s how close and friendly we are,” he told a Senate hearing on Friday.
ABC News has returned to its normal programming after experiencing a technical difficulties.
The news program was replaced for approximately 20 minutes by a montage of pictures and the Courtney Facts program.
When the news bulletin returned to screens, Greg Jennett said:
We are experiencing difficulties in broadcasting regular programming at the moment. We are working to fix all of that.
Homebuyer borrowing sinks 2.9% in April
Homebuyer lending has dropped off again as higher interest rates continue to suppress demand for housing, AAP reports.
The 2.9% monthly fall in new home commitments followed a 5.3% uptick in housing-related borrowing in March.
The value of owner-occupier lending fell 3.8%, to $15.4bn, whereas investor borrowing sunk a more modest 0.9%, to $7.9bn.
Total housing lending is still 25.8% lower than a year ago.
Melbourne’s Yarra River turns green
There’s been concern for the health of Melbourne’s Yarra River since it turned green near Flinders Street Station yesterday.
If it sounds familiar, that’s because Venice’s famous Grand Canal also turned green earlier this week:
The answer to both fluorescent mysteries is a non-toxic substance called fluorescein, used for testing wastewater networks.
The water of the Yarra River has since returned this morning to its usual murky brown today.
‘The line between wages and prices will start to cross’, Burke says
The line between wages and prices will start to cross.
It is only possible because we have a government that had been willing to argue for people to get a pay increase and has been willing to change the law for people to get a pay increase.
The people who rely on today’s decision are disproportionately young, disproportionally women, and in insecure employment.
Tony Burke says government welcomes ‘best outcome’ for wages
The employment minister, Tony Burke, says the government welcomes the Fair Work Commission’s decision on wages today:
They have handed down the best outcome for award wages in the history of these decisions.
The government very much welcomes the decision of the independent umpire in the Fair Work Commission.
This decision comes off the back of a decision last year as well, where the government went in and argued that people who find it the hardest to make ends meet, the people who are on the minimum wage, should at the very least be in a position where they do not go backwards.
‘The best decision for workers we’ve ever had’: Burke on minimum wage rise
Burke says the Fair Work Commission’s annual wage review decision today was “the best decision for workers we’ve ever had”.
The decision today is the best outcome that we have ever had the workers from an annual wage review or from its predecessors. It is the best decision we have ever had.
It has only been possible because of the actions of the government but yes, there is still more changes that we need to make.
There is still a series of loopholes of undercut wages and we are intending to deal with that in the second half of this year.
Senator Cash’s figures are wrong, Burke says
Burke says he wants to correct some figures which his shadow counterpart, Michaelia Cash, has put out today in response to the Fair Work decision:
I know senator Cash has put out figures today that are wrong.
She is a former minister in the portfolio, so I would like to be surprised.
But she has claimed the minimum wage has only gone up by 5.75%. That is completely wrong.
The figure as I said is 8.6%. Details matter in this because the details affect what goes into people’s bank accounts.
No concerns wage rise will affect RBA decision next week: Burke
Burke says he’s not concerned the wage rise will affect the decision when the RBA meets next week, citing the president of the Fair Work Commission’s words earlier today that it would neither cause nor contribute to any sort of a wage price spiral.
I find it dreadful. All the different inflation pressures that are out there, some international, some caused by long-term neglect in our supply chains, that some people want to just argue somehow it is the workers’ fault and particularly those who are reliant on the award system and the minimum wage.
‘We need an enduring solution’: Pallas on rising rents
I do recognise that this is an issue that I think is becoming increasingly uncertain. And it is a matter that the government takes very seriously and as a premier has indicated we’ll be having more to say about this.
In the latter half of this year. This is a very, very complex area of public policy and I think you recognise the comments of … the governor of the Reserve Bank when asked what was the consequence of peak prices around rent and access to housing.
He said it was an effect or function of the rules of supply and demand at work. And it is. We can’t deny the fundamental gravity of that problem.
We don’t have enough supply … the government does not see any value in trying to effectively deflate the market to a point where all you do is you get a spring back in a very substantial way and we saw that, in practical terms, when the [Covid] rent freeze that we put in place was lifted and perhaps the numbers that we’re seeing at the moment in metropolitan Melbourne is in many cases just a reflection of that bounce back. So we need an enduring solution.
Sandell says if he’s not a fan of a rent freeze, how about a cap on rent increases?
Well, we’ve said that everything’s on the table and we mean it.
Across the two decisions, last year’s decision and this year, the minimum wage is now nearly $3 higher.
Tim Pallas pressed on whether government will commit to a rent freeze
Sandell says there’s nothing in the budget for renters:
You mentioned in your presentation that the rents are up in Victoria 25%. And we saw the RBA just recently say that there’s really no end in sight in terms of rent increases, we’re expecting another at least 10% on average nationally next year, probably more in Victoria.
So we do have this whole generation of Victorians now who are unable to buy a house but are also spending 30, 40, 50% of their income on rents. Many people are just one rent rise away from homelessness. There’s nothing new in this budget around renting.
There’s nothing specifically to assist renters. Will the government commit to a rent freeze so that we can wait for rent, wages growth to catch up with rents?
Base shift means some workers will get a wage boost of as much as 8.6%
Fair Work Commission Adam Hatcher said minimum wages would lift 5.75% from July 1 but didn’t state how that translated to actual dollars in his brief speech.
Turns out that using last year’s decision of $21.38 an hour and multiplying it by 1.0575 did not give the actual dollar amount that the commission had decided on. So instead of $22.61 an hour, it transpires once you dig into the actual verdict, the national minimum wage comes out at $23.23 or $882.80 per week.
That $1.85/hour boost is more than the ‘gold coin’ increase of a year ago, and comes in at 8.6%.
Turns out the base for some workers has been lifted. The decision states:
[We] have decided to end the alignment between the national minimum wage and the C14 classification wage rate in modern awards – an alignment which has existed since 1997.
The C14 rate is the lowest modern award minimum wage rate but was only ever intended to constitute a transitional entry rate for new employees,” and is not “a proper minimum wage safety net for award/agreement free employees in ongoing employment.
It’s that realignment the 5.75% increase is based on. Should the RBA panic about the 8.6% adjustment?
The commission insists:
Having regard to the negligible proportion of the workforce to which the NMW applies, this outcome will not have discernible macro-economic effects.
Tim Pallas on public service jobs being cut in Victoria to save $2.7bn
After 20 minutes of dixers from Labor MPs, PAEC has just got (somewhat) interesting again. Greens MP, Ellen Sandell, is asking the treasurer, Tim Pallas, and representatives from the department of treasury and finance about 3,000-4,000 public service sector jobs being cut in an effort to save $2.7bn. She asks, can we really expect this will have no impact on service delivery?
Pallas replies that it won’t – because the jobs that will be cut won’t be “frontline” workers:
Services in the Victorian Public Service such as child protection services [are] protected from any adverse cuts.
You’ve said that there’ll be no cuts to frontline workers. Is there an official definition of that? And is there a list of roles that will be protected from those cuts?
We have made it clear that the responsibilities for managing this is with the employers of public servants and that is the secretaries of the departments.
Rainbow Ball in Victoria cancelled amid continuing security threats
In Victoria, the cancellation of LGBTQIA+ events has continued, with a Rainbow Ball scheduled to be held on Saturday called off amid continuing security threats towards the community.
It is the first event in pride month to be cancelled, and at least the 12th since Glitter Nova was postponed indefinitely last 7 December.
It comes as The Rainbow Community Angels, a community-led safety group, will attend Qwere St in Banyule this Saturday, to protect the community from any protesters.
Rural City of Wangaratta mayor Dean Rees said this decision was made because the event was targeted by groups with radical views:
There has been some confronting commentary around the Rainbow Ball circulated on social media, and because of this, we have chosen to prioritise the safety of all attendees and staff and delay the event.
We are extremely disappointed that there has been some hateful narrative around this event, we do not accept this but we cannot risk an event that is about fun and celebration posing a risk to anyone attending.
Prioritising the safety of our community, especially our youth, is not negotiable but we will aim to reschedule this event to enable all LGBTQIA+ young people, allies, and friends across the greater north east region of Victoria to celebrate together.
‘Financial stress’ among the reasons behind the minimum wage rise, FWC says
Fair Work Commission president Adam Hatcher said he was confident this year’s 5.75% minimum wage increase would not contribute to a “wage-price spiral”.
This year’s decision was made in “very unusual circumstances”, with low unemployment, falling real wages and high inflation, he said. “A further challenge is the expected sharp slowdown in economic growth over the next year.”
In our consideration, we have placed significant weight on the impact of the current rate of inflation, on the ability of modern award-aligned employees, especially the low paid, to meet their basic financial needs.
Inflation is reducing the real value of these employees’ incomes and causing households financial stress.
We’ll know by next Tuesday if the increase will have any impact on the Reserve Bank’s decision on interest rates.
The bank will be adding the rise to its economic models as we type.
As the RBA noted in its May quarterly statement on monetary policy, “larger increases to minimum and award wages and the lifting or removal of wage caps by state governments could have greater spillover effects on the wages of other workers than currently expected.” (State governments are trying to limit those increases, cf. New South Wales.)
The RBA has projected inflation to be running at a 6.25% annual pace by June, before slowing to 4.5% by December and 3.5% by next June. Will 5.75% more going to the least paid make much difference?
‘Your workers are also your customers’: McManus to minimum wage rise critics
McManus’ message to the business groups not happy about the rise:
Your workers are also your customers. What goes around comes around.
When minimum wage workers get pay increases, they spend it in your businesses.
The worst thing that could possibly happen will be more real wage cuts because they’re very likely deciding not to spend in your shops because they have no choice.
Employers should shoulder some responsibility for easing cost of living: McManus
McManus says employers posting big profits need to shoulder some of the cost of living burden their employees are feeling:
We see the huge profit announcements being made over the last month, whether it be from the banks, whether it be the supermarkets, whether it be Qantas, whether it be the mining companies. We all see this. Australians see this.
It is not fair that during this economic crisis some people are doing very well and posting those profits. Some of them are larger than their profits in previous years, and at the same time the working people are seeing the largest real wage cuts they’ve ever seen. Ever recorded. That is simply not fair.
Those employers, those big CEOs, need to stop thinking of their short-term bonuses and accept they need to pay Australian workers fairly and shoulder some of the responsibility for easing the cost of living.
ACTU’s Sally McManus says minimum wage boost will ‘make an incredible difference’ to workers
The secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Sally McManus, has welcomed the Fair Work Commission’s decision to lift the minimum wage by 5.75%.
It will make an incredible difference to these workers.
It will mean they will not need to sit down and work out line by line what is they need to continue to cut out of their household budgets.
That’s what Australians have been doing around the country, whether it’s skipping, going to the doctor, whether it’s skipping meals.
It’s not a small thing, [it’s] a big thing – it’s living standards.
PM in Singapore to address leaders’ meeting while Singaporean PM recovers from Covid
Speaking of Covid …
The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, has touched down in Singapore to address the Shangri-La dialogue in front of the US defence secretary, China’s defence minister and a host of senior officials.
Albanese was also supposed to meet his Singaporean counterpart, but instead of sharing the standard smiling handshake pics we are used to from the PM’s social media account, he’s been forced to retweet Lee Hsien Loong’s positive Covid result.
Australia ‘pushing as hard as we possibly can’ on repairing China trade relationship, says Farrell
Australia is pushing as hard as it can on trade issues with China, the trade minister has told senate estimates.
Don Farrell told the foreign affairs and trade hearing he is plugging away on trade issues on wine, barley, meat, hay and crayfish and “making progress”, but conceded it was tricky:
We are pushing as hard as we possibly can on this … and it hasn’t been easy to repair the damage that was done to a range of relationships by the former government.
Australia has suspended its World Trade Organization challenge to China’s barley tariffs, but Farrell said they would resume that action if necessary.
Asked if there was talk of a prime ministerial visit to China, Farrell said Anthony Albanese had been invited and it was up to him to work out when he might go.
Farrell said further progress had been made on the relationship (in the context of where the relationship needs to be before Albanese visits).
NSW records 64 Covid deaths and 1,459 people in hospital
There were 13,480 new cases in the weekly reporting period, and 34 people are in intensive care.
Those cases continue to trend downwards from the 14,409 cases last week and 14,699 the week before. The deaths recorded this week are just above the 61 recorded last week but deaths are always a lagging indicator.
Cheese and wine names up for negotiation in Australia-EU free trade talks
The end of feta, parmesan and halloumi? Back to Senate estimates (I should have said earlier – it’s the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade up now).
The trade minister, Don Farrell, says he is arguing with the European Union that Australian producers want to keep using those names for cultural as well as economic reasons as they negotiate the free trade agreement.
He said Australia accepted many European migrants in the wake of the second world war:
We opened the doors and many, many Europeans came to Australia. They brought their families, they brought their culture and, in many cases, they brought their food and their wine.
They used the “time honoured traditions” of their home countries and have cultural attachments to those products, Farrell said. There is some talk of a grandfathering deal, where producers can keep using those terms, but new starters won’t be able to.
And on the topic of market access for Australians to sell beef, dairy and so on into the EU, and “scuttlebutt” that Australia will get a dud deal, Farrell said “there’s still a lot more water to go under the bridge”.
There is also discussion about what the EU’s deforestation rules could mean for Australians – Josh Butler has covered this in detail here.
No risk to public from Sydney CBD package, police say as exclusion zone lifted
Police have found the suspicious package reported within the Downing Centre court complex in the Sydney CBD and concluded their operation.
A police spokesperson said:
There is no risk to the public. The exclusion zone is being lifted and roads are being reopened.
Investigations are ongoing.
Peak body for retailers says minimum wage increase will be difficult for businesses to absorb
The peak retail body, the Australian Retailers Association, has the same concerns as the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry – that the minimum wage rise will put pressure on small businesses.
The rate of 5.75% is below the 7% unions called for, but above the 3.5% businesses had pushed for.
The CEO of ARA, Paul Zahra, said the scale of this increase will be difficult for retailers to absorb, particularly because there are no productivity improvements gained.
We’re experiencing a cost-of-living crisis – so it’s important that wages continue to grow, but we’re also continuing to experience a cost-of-doing-business crisis, so it’s a very delicate balancing act to keep business operating sustainably.
… We fear the scale of this increase will tip some businesses over the edge – especially smaller retailers who are on very slim profit margins or in some cases in negative cashflow territory.
Business group concerned over wage-price spiral despite FWC assurances
McKellar says the minimum wage rise will impact small businesses the most:
They are the ones who end up paying these award wages. It will mean for them it adds to pressure which is already intense as a result of significantly higher costs … through the supply chain, through energy prices and now through wages.
ACCI chief expresses disappointment in 5.75% increase to minimum wage
The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive, Andrew McKellar, has told reporters in Canberra he is “disappointed” and “concerned” by the 5.75% wage increase.
McKellar said the decision will cause “significant costs for business” totalling an estimated $12.6m, adding further pressure to inflation.
McKellar said the commission had “not followed RBA guidance” and that ACCI believes anything above a 4% rise creates risk of further inflation.
McKellar said that annual wage reviews are an “outdated system” but was vague about the alternative: simplify awards and let business “identify the correct pay points that people should be on”.
Suspicious package reportedly found in Sydney CBD
Stepping away from reactions to the minimum wage for a moment.
A suspicious package has reportedly been found in Sydney’s Downing centre court complex.
Police have set up an exclusion zone, with road closures on Elizabeth, Goulburn and Liverpool Streets after receiving reports of the package.
A police operation is under way.
Police are asking community members to avoid the area and listen to officers.
Minimum wage rise won’t be inflationary, Fair Work Commission president says
The 5.75% increase in minimum wages for the coming year is about midway between the 3.8% some business groups such as AiGroup called for and the 7% sought by the ACTU.
Adam Hatcher, the Fair Work Commission president, said last year’s 5.2% increase had affected about one in four workers whose wages made up 11% of the national total. That increase, though, made up less than 10% of the total wages growth – and hence had not contributed to a wage-price spiral.
Hatcher said of this coming year’s increase which kicks in from 1 July:
We are confident that the increase we have determined will make a modest contribution to total wages growth in 2023-24.
Minimum wage increase still a ‘real wage cut’ due to inflation: RAFFWU
The reaction from the Retail and Fast Food Workers Union to that 5.75% minimum wage rise is that it’s welcome but still not in line with inflation.
The RAFFWU secretary has told ABC News:
Inflation is at 6.8% and so 5.75%, while it is welcome because workers right across Australia are doing it tough, it is still a whole [percentage point] below the current inflation rate which works out to 25 cents an hour or $10 a week.
… It ends up being a real wage cut.
Wages will lift to about $22.61 per hour or $859.32 per week, according to the Fair Work Commission.
Fair Work Commission lifts minimum wages by 5.75% from 1 July
The decision affects about 2.67 million people, according to the ACTU.
Workers’ salaries have been falling in real terms in recent years as salary increases have failed to keep up with inflation. For the March quarter of this year, wages gained 3.7%, well shy of the 7% annual rise in consumer prices.
Employees covered by an award or registered agreement are entitled to the minimum pay rates, including penalty rates and allowances in their award or agreement, the commission says. These pay rates may be higher than the national minimum wage.
The wage review is being announced in Sydney, which will set new award and minimum wage rates. Our economics correspondent Peter Hannam will bring you the numbers as soon as they come in.
Fifa to release more Women’s World Cup tickets
Fifa will release nearly 250,000 additional Women’s World Cup tickets next Tuesday, with seats available for all 64 matches.
The ticket release will include some seats with “obstructed views” which will be 50% cheaper than non-obstructed seats in the same price category.
With 48 days to go until kick-off, Fifa’s chief women’s football officer, Sarai Bareman, said fans from more than 150 countries had so far bought tickets for the tournament.
Many matches in both host countries have experienced significant interest and sales demand, so we trust that this latest supply of tickets will enable some truly passionate fans to secure seats at matches that they may have missed out on so far.
This round of extra tickets will go on sale at midday 6 June, and Fifa said more may be released in the coming weeks.
The Matildas will play France in Melbourne on 14 July for their final game before the World Cup.
Australia will not do free trade deal with EU ‘for the sake of doing a deal’, says trade minister
Australia will not sign a free trade agreement with the European Union “at any cost”, the trade minister, Don Farrell, has told Senate estimates. He said:
If the Europeans play too hard, well then we won’t have an agreement.
We’re not going to do a deal just for the sake of doing a deal … but we do want one. It’s going to be good for Australian businesses if we can get a satisfactory deal.
Farrell will travel to Europe tomorrow to discuss the FTA. He said the sticking points from the EU side were geographical indicators – meaning they want to protect names such as prosecco – and the luxury car tax.
You can get all the good cheese on the EU FTA here:
Independent schools losing tax exemption may also be hit with two more taxes if payrolls more than $10m
The secretary of Victoria’s department of treasury and finance, David Martine, has confirmed schools that will no longer be exempt from payroll tax may also have to pay two other taxes – “the Covid debt” and mental health levies – if their payrolls are over $10m.
As revealed in the budget, from July, businesses that pay more than $10m in wages nationally – or 5% of the state’s employers – will pay a “Covid debt levy” via a payroll tax surcharge of 0.5% for their Victorian employees. Businesses with national payrolls above $100m pay a 1% surcharge. This is in addition to the mental health levy announced in 2021.
The Liberal MP Bev McArthur asked Martine how many Victorian companies would be liable for increased payroll tax this year, and how many companies would be liable by 2032.
There are [currently] around 11,000 businesses above the $10m threshold.
He says he has to get back to her on the 2032 forecast.
Minister looks at changes to Hecs debt pile-on
The education minister says there could be merit in changing how Hecs interest is calculated after thousands of current and former students woke up to higher debt, AAP reports.
Indexation applied on Hecs debts added thousands of dollars to the total balance on 1 June. The education minister, Jason Clare, said there was a good argument for changing indexation being applied to the original debt rather than the remaining balance.
If a student has a debt of $20,000 and $2,000 is paid off, indexation is calculated on the original figure, not the $18,000 balance. He told reporters in Canberra today:
That strikes me as not right.
He said he ordered the team conducting a review into education reform to look at the issue. The interim report will land on his desk next month.
Clare said, however, that the current arrangements were better than a bank loan charging interest for a profit. He pointed to the fact that even if the total bill goes up, repayments do not, as they’re tied to your wage band.
Our higher education reporter Caitlin Cassidy has been following this issue closely:
Milton Dick and independent MPs join Lifeline push-up challenge
Meanwhile in Canberra, the speaker for the house of representatives, Milton Dick, yesterday joined independent MPs in a post-question time push up challenge.
They are part of thousands of Australians participating in the Lifeline challenge which encourages all ages and ability to complete 3,144 push-ups over 23 days in June, putting a spotlight on the number of lives lost to suicide across the nation.
Dutton says former defence ministers could be called as witnesses in possible investigations of war crimes
Meanwhile, the opposition leader and former defence minister Peter Dutton has told the Today Show how he received the news of the outcome of the Ben Roberts-Smith defamation trial:
It is a tough day for our country. The vast majority of Australians hold the SAS and the Australian defence force in the highest regard. This obviously is a case now that will go on appeal.
There’s also a criminal investigation under way. I note the comments of Richard Marles last night saying he wasn’t going to provide comment.
For a lot of us as former defence ministers, we need to be careful; if there is a criminal investigation on, we may well be called as witnesses.
Victorian public accounts hearings begin
I’m covering Victoria’s public accounts and estimates committee’s budget estimates hearings today, with the treasurer, Tim Pallas, and representatives from the department of treasury and finance first up.
Right now, the secretary of the department, David Martine, is being grilled over the plan to remove private schools’ long-held exemption to payroll tax from next year. The change means about 110 high-fee private schools will be required to pay tax on staff salaries, raising more than $420m over three years.
Liberal MP Nick McGowan has asked how the government came up with those costings.
Martine says it’s based on the average tuition fees of the “top 15% of schools” in the state.
School hours are a ‘sexist relic’, MP says in 6pm push
Taking you to the NSW parliament, which has heard from a Liberal MP that current school hours are a relic of a sexist, bygone era and should be extended to 6pm to empower mothers. AAP reports:
Jordan Lane used his inaugural speech to outline his vision to restructure school days, saying it would ease the load on parents and teachers and produce more well-rounded children through after-class activities.
The Ryde MP said yesterday:
The great travesty of public policy will be if the education system of the 2050s looks as it did when it was established in the 1950s.
It is a relic of a sexist, bygone era, when society assumed women stayed at home and were responsible for the school pickup.
Schools operating until 6pm would become “a place for extracurricular excellence”, with coding classes, culture and language, art, dance, music and sport offered by providers and community organisations, he said. That would expose more children to “rounded experiences” and avoid overworking teachers, Lane said.
It would also relieve parents of the high cost of childcare and inject hope for potential parents, he said:
Potential but reluctant parents who, like me, struggle to rationalise how to afford, in terms of both time and money, children, a home and equal employability between partners.
Imagine what we could achieve as a society if, while paving the paths of our children’s success, we were not simultaneously complicating the paths of their parents.
Dutton points out standard of proof in defamation case was lower than in a criminal case
Dutton went on to point out the standard of proof in Ben Roberts-Smith defamation case, as a civil trial, was lower than it would have been in a criminal case:
There has been a lot of speculation, and rightly so, about the recurring tours people went to in Afghanistan. That doesn’t excuse somebody operating outside the law.
There’s obviously huge impact; I want to acknowledge the families of SAS soldiers, those that have been accused, those who are witnesses, those who carried the burden of the whole incident or the whole episode but have done nothing wrong except been in the SAS, and they’ve served their country with great distinction.
There’s a lot of impact on families. There is a big issue here, but, as I say, this is a civil trial. Standard of proof is lower than in a criminal case. That criminal matter, and others, are under investigation at the moment.
Increase of 7% argued by ACTU would hurt smaller businesses: ACCI chief
Mackellar doesn’t want to see the ACTU’s call for a 7% increase to the minimum wage implemented because, he says, small businesses would be the ones hurt by the inflationary effects of the extra $14bn pumped into the economy:
An increase of 7% – which is what the ACTU has been arguing for – would add about $14bn of cost back into the supply chain. It would hurt smaller businesses, the ones that are most vulnerable.
The reality is that in many sectors across the economy in retail, in manufacturing in construction, restaurants, cafes, hospitality, small business is struggling at the moment.
Many of them have seen declining margins over the past two years, they’re facing much higher costs, they’re the ones that employ people on award wages.
Masters ‘very weary and certainly relieved’ after Roberts-Smith judgment
Masters says Ben Roberts-Smith went into the case thinking he would win, but it’s a relief for the investigative journalists that he didn’t.
I think in the beginning of this case, with all the money that’s been spent on it, he probably thought he was going to win, but you know, credit to the work that we did initially and some phenomenal work from our own lawyers …
I can say today that we’re both very weary and certainly relieved.
Dutton says SAS’s ‘incredible work’ deserves recognition
Dutton reiterates that veterans and serving defence men and women deserve the country’s support:
I want us, most importantly, when we talk about the SAS, recognise, as Nick [McKenzie] pointed out, the incredible work they do in our country’s name, even this day, that most Australians would never see and that stop terrorist attacks or keep us safe.
Soldiers who spoke out saved reputation of regiment: Masters
The journalists are speaking about the blowback faced by some of the soldiers they interviewed who spoke out against a Victoria Cross recipient.
Chris Masters says it was those soldiers who saved the reputation of their regiment by being the ones to speak out:
Talking to a journalist was seen as a greater sin than committing a war crime by many people.
Many of those people who still say, you know, why are you making a fuss about this? This is a sort of normal outcome of war.
Of course that’s senseless, and I think when you boil it down, what they seem to be saying is that if somebody is commits an act of violence, and they’re wearing Australian uniform, it’s not wrong.
Historically, the ADF has fought against such instances and those soldiers who did speak up are part of that crew. I actually kind of think they saved their own regiment, because you can always say now that it was them that called it out.
On whether Ben Roberts-Smith should be stripped of his medals, Dutton says: “That will be a case for the defence minister, the ADF and the governor general to decide.”
Minimum wage increase of 3.5% would be ‘reasonable’, says ACCI CEO
What does the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry think the Fair Work Commission should decide on the minimum wage rates?
Their CEO, Andrew McKellar, has told ABC News Breakfast:
We’ve put forward a submission for a 3.5% increase in the award rates.
On top of that, of course, employees will be getting another 0.5% in superannuation from 1 July this year.
We think that’s fair. We think it’s reasonable.
We think it is part of the equation to get inflation back under control and ultimately that’s the thing that is going to ensure that those who are most vulnerable in workplaces can begin to lift their living standards again.
The Fair Work Commission will broadcast online the result of the wage review at 10am AEST today.
Good morning! Thanks to Stuart MacFarlane for kicking things off. I’m Natasha May and I’ll be taking you through all the day’s live news until the afternoon.
Fair Work Commission to reveal minimum wage increase
A bit more on the Fair Work Commission’s increase to the minimum wage:
Westpac economists have predicted an average pay increase of 4.6%. But ANZ experts believe there will be a 7% nominal increase in the national minimum wage in line with headline inflation:
For modern award minimum wages, we expect a smaller but still substantial nominal increase of five to 5.5%.
The treasurer, Jim Chalmers, said:
We will respect whatever decision the independent umpire makes.
But the Albanese government will always do what we can to support the wages of workers, particularly the lowest-paid workers in our economy.
The nation’s largest business network, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, says there should be a “cautious and calibrated” wage increase of 4%. This would lift the minimum wage to $841.04 a week, with 3.5% directed to ordinary earnings and 0.5% directed to the expected superannuation increase from 1 July.
The ACTU has argued for a 7% rise, or about $57 a week for a full-time worker on the minimum wage.
Good morning and welcome to our rolling news coverage of all things Australian and political. I’m Stuart MacFarlane, taking a look at the main breaking stories this morning before Natasha May takes the controls.
The fallout from yesterday’s judgment in the Ben Roberts-Smith defamation case is continuing, with the Australian War Memorial facing calls to remove Roberts-Smith’s uniform from its display.
In a landmark defamation case ruling on Thursday, Justice Anthony Besanko found that, on the balance of probabilities, Roberts-Smith kicked a handcuffed prisoner off a cliff in Darwan in 2012 before ordering a subordinate Australian soldier to shoot the injured man dead.
Besanko also found that in 2009 Roberts-Smith ordered the execution of an elderly man found hiding in a tunnel in a bombed-out compound codenamed “Whiskey 108”, as well as murdering a disabled man with a prosthetic leg during the same mission.
In Canberra most politicians were reluctant to weigh in on the implications of the ruling but the Greens described the defamation judgment as “an important win for fearless journalism in the public interest”.
Millions of Australians on award and minimum wages are set to find out how much more they will be paid. But economists warn a too-generous rise could add to pressure on the Reserve Bank to push up interest rates next week.
The Fair Work Commission will broadcast online the result of its latest wage review at 10am AEST today, which is expected to impact on 2.67 million of the lowest-paid Australians.
Last year the panel split its decision by awarding a 5.2% increase to 180,000 workers on the lowest minimum wage, in line with inflation at the time. As well, the umpire outlined an increase of $40 a week or at least 4.6% for 2.6 million people on higher award rates.
The Albanese government has recommended to the commission that it “ensures the real wages of Australia’s low-paid workers do not go backwards”.
With inflation at 6.8% in the year to April, this would require a wage rise of at least 6.9%.
The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, will deliver the keynote speech at a major regional security forum in Singapore, before travelling to Vietnam.
The speech, to be given in front of the likes of the US defence secretary, Lloyd Austin, and senior Chinese defence officials tonight, is being flagged as his most significant global security address this year.
Convened by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, the Shangri-La dialogue is the premier forum for government leaders and experts to discuss regional security.
Albanese said he would outline “Australia’s vision for a stable, peaceful and prosperous Indo-Pacific”.
With all that, let’s begin …