Interview with Peter Stefanovic, Sky News First Edition
8th August 2022
PETER STEFANOVIC: Back with First Edition. Thank you for your company this morning. Well, the government will today make a submission to the Fair Work Commission to advocate for a significant pay rise for the aged care sector. Joining us live now is the Shadow Finance Minister Jane Hume. Jane, good to see you. So the government wants a significant, meaningful pay rise for workers in aged care. What in your view, should that be?
JANE HUME: Pete, the unions have put forward a 25% Pay claim the government looks like it will support that claim as it seems to have done with all union requests since it came to the government in May. Whether it be abolishing the ABCC whether it be repealing the transparency and accountability of superannuation funds, it does seem to be that Labor is taking the sides of the union in any claim that is made. Now the coalition has always said this is a decision for the Fair Work Commission. It makes those decisions in a context around the entire industry and, indeed, the entire economy. So we would leave that decision to the Fair Work Commission for the appropriate outcome itself.
STEFANOVIC: Yeah, if it is, that works out roughly to be $5 an hour for a worker if it is that, would you support it?
HUME: Well, the question to really be answered here, Pete is whether those wage rises will, in fact, be passed on to residents, will they be passed on to ordinary Australians that are about to go into aged care? Will they make a difference in productivity? Now, we know that aged care workers are some of the lowest paid workers in the land, certainly. But we also want to make sure that even if they do get a pay rise, that the system is sustainable, and that the aged care system can stand up under the weight of that increased cost to their businesses. Because as we've seen on the waterfronts, as we've seen in other industries when their costs of doing business go up, they simply can't continue on anymore. And they pack up and go home, we need to ensure we have a sustainable aged care system.
STEFANOVIC: There needs to be a pay rise, they wouldn't you agree, because how else are you going to attract workers into a chronically understaffed sector?
HUME: Well, indeed, as we have been saying, for many years, when you improve the employment outcomes in the country, and we have some of the lowest unemployment rates in the world right now, at only 3.5%, that, of course, wages will go up right across the board. And you're correct. If you want to attract workers, you're going to need to put wages up to do so. The question is whether you actually get to a stage where you can sustain an industry or whether you destroy the industry by having disproportionate wage rises.
STEFANOVIC: So how much is too much?
HUME: This is not a decision for the Coalition. It's not a decision for the government either. This is the point, it's not even a decision for the government. This is for the Fair Work Commission. There is a reason why they are independent because they have a much better perspective on what is fair, what is reasonable, but also what is sustainable in the context of the entire industry and the entire economy.
STEFANOVIC: So, do you support whatever the Commission decides on?
HUME: That's why we have a Fair Work Commission so that when they make a decision, the government will inevitably support whatever comes out because it does so in the context of the industry and the economy.
STEFANOVIC: Okay, so but your concern is, if there's too much, then it gets passed on to residents, or it gets passed on to other areas making, you know, a, perhaps a business, unviable.
HUME: Pete there are lots of businesses out there that are already struggling in aged care is no different. There are the costs of doing business, whether it be your energy costs, whether it be wage rises, whether it be, you know, imports of food, for instance, now we just saw yesterday, the price of eggs is going through the roof. There are so many inputs to businesses that are now becoming out of reach for ordinary employers. Of course, once employers find that they can't continue on a viable business. They shut up shop.
STEFANOVIC: Your government provided one-off payments of $400 to the aged care sector. In hindsight, do you think that was undercooked?
HUME: Well, what we were doing was responding to an immediate pressure at that time now, we know that there was a very significant Royal Commission into making sure that the aged care system was improved, that it was also sustainable. So the response at the time was for the people of its time. With the benefit of hindsight, would you change it? I don't think that's really a relevant conversation. What we need to do now, though, is make sure that not only are we attracting those aged workers to the sector, but we're providing exactly the right conditions for those workers to be sustainable into the future and businesses to be sustainable.
STEFANOVIC: During the election campaign, Anthony Albanese signalled support for the minimum wage and increase the minimum wage by about 5.1%. The Commission came back with 5.2% Do you believe that the commission was influenced by that?
HUME: I believe that the commission is not politicised. I think if you thought that the Fair Work Commission was politicised, you would pack up and go home, so you cannot suggest that the Fair Work Commission is politicised. That said, I think we recall at the time that Anthony Albanese weighed in on this that it was a bit of a gaffe. It was a gaffe that worked in his favour politically, so he kept going with the gaffe. Now, that's fine. But I personally think that no government should weigh in on the independence of the Fair Work Commission ever. That's why we want it independent.
STEFANOVIC: Okay, just a quick one here to squeeze in. fuel prices are dropping right across the country. I noticed on the way to work this morning down to $1.60 in Sydney. Does that now take the pressure off a push to extend the fuel excise cuts?
HUME: There are cost pressures everywhere. As I mentioned before the cost of living is going up whether it be at the petrol bowser, you still feel it even though those petrol prices are very high. Yes, they're coming off their highs, which is very good news. But they're still very high. You're feeling it at the grocery checkout, you're feeling it when you pay your energy bills. And, of course, you're feeling it when you pay your mortgages because interest rates are going up so fast. The most important thing that the government can do is make sure that it is fiscal settings are counteracting the monetary policy settings. And so, you know, it is more likely that the RBA has to respond with a tougher lever on interest rates. So get your fiscal settings right and get them working in order, you've got a much better chance of bringing down inflation.
STEFANOVIC: On fuel excise cuts, do you think that should still be extended?
HUME: Well, I never thought that the fuel excise cuts should be extended. The question is, what is the government going to do? The opposition has said you haven't done anything on the cost of living. You've done a lot of big talking on things like the ABCC working for essentially union masters, whether it be repealing superannuation regulations for accountability and transparency, you talk a big game on productivity, and you talk a big game on the cost of living, and yet you haven't actually provided a single solution. So the question is, what's the Albanese Government going to do about those cost of living pressures, whether it be energy prices, whether it be grocery bills, or whether it be the cost of the bowser?
STEFANOVIC: Okay, that's the Shadow Finance Minister Jane Hume. Thank you, Jane. We'll talk to you soon.