Labor could legislate a living wage says Bill Shorten

He said there were options for ensuring this, ranging from the government making a submission to the commission, or legislation.

“We’ll have more to say on this in coming weeks.”

“We want to help the Fair Work Commission with the guidelines they use to set the minimum wage. And we want them to take into account more factors,” he said.

“We start from the principle, and who can argue with this, other than perhaps the government? That we don’t want adults in Australia working full time trying to survive on $18.93 per hour before tax.”

‘They do get it wrong’

Mr Shorten said Labor trusted the Fair Work Commission, despite disagreeing with its decision to cut Sunday and public holiday penalty rates which Labor has vowed to reverse if elected.

“We trust the Fair Work Commission. But periodically, they do get it wrong,” he said.

“[Paul] Keating said it was wrong which led to him legislating compulsory super.

“But they do have a great track record. But I do think that they’ve got it wrong cutting penalty rates.”

He said the guidelines Labor will give the Commission when setting the new living wage would take into account essential expenses which did not exist in the 1980s.

“The minimum wage hasn’t been updated since the ’80s. I don’t mean the increments but the principles,” he said.

“In the ’80s, the internet wasn’t invented, water was free, mobile phones weren’t used. Time charging was still regarded as an anathema.

“So I do think that we need to refresh the guidelines, and we’ll have more to say about that.”

Last year, the Commission warned of “the substantial risk adverse employment effects” when the ACTU demanding a living wage equivalent to 60 per cent of the median wage, which would have resulted in an increase of almost $200 a week.

“Such adverse effects will impact on those groups who are already marginalised in the labour market, with a corresponding impact on the vulnerability of households to poverty due to loss of employment or hours,” the Commission said.

“An increase of the magnitude proposed by…the ACTU would also carry a substantial risk of reducing the employment opportunities for low-skilled workers, including many young persons, who are looking for work.

“Workers at the lower end of the wage distribution (such as those paid the National Minimum Wage), including those on modern awards who tend to have less skill than other workers, are more vulnerable to disemployment.”

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