FAIR GO: Retail worker Rhiannon Pearce and Labor's candidate for Capricornia Russell Robertson call for the reinstatement of penalty rates.
FAIR GO: Retail worker Rhiannon Pearce and Labor's candidate for Capricornia Russell Robertson call for the reinstatement of penalty rates. Leighton Smith

Alarm bells ring after dramatic wage slowdown in Capricornia

NEW data has come to light explaining why Capricornia's workers are earning a wage and yet are struggling to make ends meet.

Real wages refers to the income of an worker after taking into consideration the effects of inflation on purchasing power.

Analysis of Australian Tax Office data by the Centre for Future Work on behalf of the progressive think-tank the Australian Institute, found that Capricornia's real wages fell by a cumulative total of 7.47 per cent between 2012-13 and 2016-17.

Average wages across the electorate, as reported on residents' personal income tax returns, grew by just 0.03% per year over the past four years - well behind Queensland's average 1.99 per cent yearly increase in Queensland's consumer prices.

Economist and Director of the Centre for Future Work and author of the report Dr. Jim Stanford said their analysis confirmed that the wages crisis in Australia has been even worse than conventional ABS statistics suggested.

"Wages everywhere in Australia have performed very poorly, but some regions have been especially hard-hit. The electorate of Capricornia has been among the hardest hit of anywhere in the country," Dr Stanford said.

"Perhaps it is not a coincidence that some of the tightest contests in the current federal election are precisely in those communities where real wages have declined the most.

"The ATO statistics allow calculation of wage trends by electorate - a level of detail that is not possible with other data sources. Public anger over cost-of-living issues is justified, given this hard evidence that real wages in these communities have fallen."

In addition to low wage growth findings, new research carried out by the progressive McKell Institute revealed that $16.6 million had been cut from the wages of Rockhampton workers since the penalty rate cut was introduced in 2017.

The peak body for working people warned that penalty rates cuts would become even worse if the next round of cuts were to go ahead - a situation that could only be avoided by a change of government.


ACTU President Michele O'Neil called for penalty rates to be restored for working people and supports Labor's pledge to do so within the first 100 days in office.

"Taking money from working people and their families by cutting their penalty rates is driving them toward poverty. These cuts affect some of our lowest paid workers," Ms O'Neil said.

"Scott Morrison and his coalition government voted eight times to cut penalty rates and told us penalty rates would create jobs - which of course hasn't happened."

ACTU Secretary Sally McManus decried the situation where Capricornia's workers would see another $16 million cut from their pay-checks over the next three years.

"Working people should have fair pay, especially for weekend, night and public holiday shifts," Ms McManus said.

"Penalty rates cuts hold working people and local businesses back. When people don't have money to spend small business suffers."

Labor's candidate for Capricornia Russell Robertson, slammed government's failure to stand up Central Queensland workers.

"For five years, the LNP have denied there is a problem with wages and local jobs in Central Queensland. Now we know that even if you can secure a stable local job you're real wage has fallen significantly under the LNP's watch."

"This is the end result of the LNP's deliberate and destructive campaign of wage suppression in Australia - a low wages policy setting that the Finance Minister recently described as 'a design feature of our economic architecture'," Mr Robertson said.

"Workers are struggling to pay the bills and in many cases taking on second and even third jobs in an effort just to make ends meet.

"It is hardly surprising that this is the outcome from decisions to slash penalty rates - with another round of cuts coming on July 1 if the government is re-elected."