It’s an ill wind… and while the Treasurer mightn’t be having a good
week, the rest of us benefited from a summer school course in wages
policy as we look forward to the wonderful world of WorkChoices.

The Prime Minister likes to boast about the wages rises that have
occurred under his Government. They were constantly referred to in
parliament during the WorkChoices debate.

The increase in wages, however, has been largely due to union based
enterprise bargaining introduced by Labor after the abandonment of the
Accord, which prevented variations from awards.

Low inflation – a global trend, not just a creation of this government
– has meant that these wage rises have been real, not just nominal.

But we’ve got to remember that through its nine and three quarter years
in office, the Howard Government has actually fought all increases in
the minimum wage.

All of which makes The Australian’s report
today that “leading economists have challenged Treasurer Peter
Costello’s assertion that minimum wages could be higher under Howard
Government workplace changes, reinforcing Treasury advice predicting
lower increases” more interesting.

Brad Norington and Steve Lewis write: “As Mr Costello continued to
disavow his own department’s advice, economists argued tax credits to
top up the pay of low-income earners were a better way to enhance
living standards than boosting the minimum wage of $484.40 a week.”

Still, he has the Prime Minister on his side. “Peter has been falsely accused and I support him to the full,” Howard told Channel 9 yesterday.

But to quote another famous political prost… player, “he would say that, wouldn’t he”. With a deputy like Costello, the PM’s safe for a long time yet.