We know Scott Morrison don’t like minimum wage keeping pace with inflation and Anthony Albanian also hesitates a little by not saying that it would be in a post-election submission of his government to the Fair Work Commission.
But some things are indexed to consumer price inflation, such as student loans under the Higher Education Contribution Scheme.
No wonder, then, that the president of the National Union of Students Georgia Beatty smacks of “simply hypocrisy” in the government’s argument that inflationary wage increases are “irresponsible”.
Many college students, of course, work those in four minimum paid jobs (now at $20.33 an hour) in retail and hospo.
Beatty, speaking after the first of two days of strike action by Sydney University staff over poor pay and conditions, said student debt itself was skyrocketing even before higher repayments related to the CPI come into force.
“It’s not just that our fees are based on a much higher rate of inflation than our salaries,” says Georgia Beatty, president of the USN. “Students are really feeling the brunt” of rising prices, as the cost of rent, food and other costs rise.
“It’s that Scott Morrison’s ‘Graduate Ready’ tuition has also driven unprecedented fee increases, with arts degrees rising 113%.
“Students are wondering how we’re going to afford these extra fees when we’re dealing with rising costs of living, precarious work and haven’t seen significant wage growth for most of our life.”
A spokesperson for the Minister of Employment Stuart Robert states that the Hecs-Help agreements “were working to support record numbers of Australian students to participate in university and ensure that higher education has no cost barrier at the point of entry”:
HECS-HELP loans are repaid only when individuals meet the income threshold and these loans are interest free.
(The “real” interest is an interesting point because many loans are – until now – at rates below the headline rate, or even the underlying inflation rate. When they turn positive, what they eventually have to do, nominal refunds will skyrocket.)
The Greens, who are campaign to “erase student debt”said the discrepancy between how student debt and wage increases have been handled demonstrates government priorities.
“If student debt can be automatically lifted with inflation, then wages can too,” the Greens leader said. Adam Bandt mentioned. “The Greens want to change the law to raise the minimum wage to 60% of the median wage and ensure that wages in female-dominated industries rise at least 0.5% faster than the CPI to close the pay gap between genders.”
OECD data shows that the minimum wage as a proportion of median wages has been declining over the long term since at least 2000. The average for OECD members has increased over this period.
“It’s disappointing that Labor is not making a submission to the Fair Work Commission demanding an increase in the minimum wage, which the Greens have done and will push for the next Parliament,” Bandt said. “We need a full press on the wage hike now.”