WAGE WAR

Labor is distancing itself from a proposal to legislate the minimum wage as a percentage of the median wage, instead considering a plan that would leave annual wage increases to the Fair Work Commission but change its parameters to focus on the needs of low-paid workers.

The Australian ($) reports that changes to the Fair Work Act, flagged as a way of guiding the commission towards ensuring “workers get their fair share” by opposition workplace relations spokesman Brendan O’Connor, would replace a plan from the ACTU to introduce a “living wage” set at 60% of median wages, up from 54%. O’Connor announced Labor’s intention to focus on the Fair Work Commission’s role in increasing the minimum wage via Sky News yesterday. Although when O’Connor was questioned by The Australian, it turned out both the new parameters and the ACTU’s plan are apparently still on the table:

‘We haven’t decided the best approach but I’m just making it very clear that Labor has always been a strong advocate for an umpire,’ he said. ‘It’s certainly my assumption that the Fair Work Commission will continue its role in managing wages, including looking at the living wage or the minimum wage … but we are open to ideas about how do we ensure there is a commensurate benefit to workers, particularly in light of record profits and very good productivity growth.’

The commission currently takes a range of factors into account when determining annual minimum wage increases, such as productivity, inflation, cost of living as well as the needs of the low-paid. In response to Labor’s proposal, the Australian Industry Group warned against disrupting “the careful balance” with unsustainable wage increases and giving inadequate weight to business ­viability.

SHIFTING THE GOAL POSTS

The New South Wales government is pushing for systems to reduce the pressure of final-year exams and foster “non-cognitive skills such as growth mindset” as part of a major review into Australian schools.

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, submissions from the NSW Education Department into David Gonski‘s education review recommend fewer end-of-year tests, and less reliance on final-year results in determining university acceptance, as ways of reducing “excessive student stress”.

Additionally, the state government urged the Gonski panel to address ways in which education can better prepare students for “a rapidly changing and uncertain world” and encourage a “growth mindset”, defined by Grattan Institute schools expert Peter Goss as “the belief that I can get better at something by working hard at it [as opposed to a fixed mindset, i.e.] the belief that I’m good or bad at something because that’s just who I am”.

RUSH CASE REVEALS ALLEGATION OF UNWANTED TOUCHING

Actor Geoffrey Rush was allegedly told to stop touching co-star Eryn Jean Norvill “inappropriately” during a 2016 performance of King Lear but supposedly continued the behaviour for four days, according to documents in a defamation case launched by Rush against The Daily Telegraph last year.

After the court lifted a suppression order on the paper’s defence document yesterday, The Daily Telegraph ($) has reported the full extent of Norvill’s allegations of inappropriate behaviour made to the Sydney Theatre Company in 2016, including a separate incident in which Rush allegedly followed her into the female toilets at the after-party on the final night of the STC’s performance and stood outside her cubicle until she told him to “F… off”.

Rush denies the allegations, and in relation to the unwanted touching complaint, his lawyer Richard McHugh said that, “they are necessarily touching as part of what the production requires”.

READ ALL ABOUT IT

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Donald Trump supports improving gun background checks in wake of Florida school shooting

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Launceston: Tasmanian Premier Will Hodgman and Labor Opposition Leader Rebecca White will face off in an election debate ahead of the March 3 poll.

Hobart: Senator Richard Di Natale will help launch the Tasmanian Greens’ election campaign.

Adelaide: South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill, Liberal Opposition Leader Steven Marshall and NXT leader Nick Xenophon will go to head to head in an environmental debate hosted by Conservation SA.

Adelaide: SA defence industry will farewell outgoing Trade Minister Martin Hamilton-Smith.

Perth: Final report from Special Inquiry into Government Programs and Projects to be handed down by former under-treasurer John Langouland.

Canberra: The Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) to release a cost of disability services and projected trends report. 

Canberra: Inquiries into the 2016 election and dual-citizenship issue per section 44 of the constitution (Perth).

Canberra: Senate select committee to examine future of work (Brisbane).

THE COMMENTARIAT

This is why we still need to talk about George — Sarah Hanson-Young (SMH): “George Christensen’s tactics are undergraduate, silly, and downright thuggish. He and his band of hard-right brutes try to bait their political opponents into anger, then turn around and make fun of them for being angry. Bait, and switch. But in light of his Facebook post over the weekend, where he posted a photo himself, feeling tough and holding a firearm with the caption, ‘do you feel lucky, greenie punks?’, we still need to talk about what he’s done.”

Why Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger Is The Real Hero of ‘Black Panther’Osman Faruqi (Junkee): “The impact of colonialism and its ongoing trauma is the tension that runs throughout Marvel’s latest release, Black Panther. The film, which hit Australian cinemas last week, is easily the most politically complex instalment in the blockbuster superhero franchise. It is an unashamedly black film, something that is itself a political act when you consider both how white the entertainment industry is and the resurgence of the far-right and white supremacist groups in today’s politics.”

CRIKEY QUICKIE: THE BEST OF YESTERDAY

Abbott’s crusade to bring ‘democracy’ back to the Libs is misguided — Claire Pullen: “Last week, erstwhile PM Tony Abbott tried and failed — again — to pass the ‘Warringah motion’, which would grant more control over preselections to rank-and-file New South Wales Liberal Party members. Much of the media reporting on the issue focused on the key players, but missed some of the politics, before disappearing entirely under the Barnaby Joyce saga.”

The Christensen conundrum: how many times can one man shoot himself in the foot? — Irfan Yusuf: “Why does [George] Christensen do it? Basically, because he believes he is in a unique position as his seat of Dawson is unique. Just as its biggest city of Mackay has its own unique climate (I should know, having lived and worked there for 14 months), similarly, its political climate must be different to the rest of Queensland.”

Amid denialism on company tax cuts, the ABC lets us all downBernard Keane: “Far from being, as alleged by the ABC, too opinionated, [Emma] Alberici’s piece (available here) is a collation of straightforward facts — levels of profit versus wages growth in recent years, the fact that few companies pay 30% tax, the high level of investment despite our ‘uncompetitive’ tax rate, the minimal role tax plays in business investment decisions, the comparative performance of investment and wages in Australia, and Canada, where company tax rates were reduced significantly, the decline of real wages in the UK where company taxes were also cut, the Congressional Budget Office analysis showing Australia’s tax rate is relatively low compared internationally; the relatively negligible economic benefits identified in the government’s own modelling, the fact that we’re projected to remain in deficit for several years yet.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

Peter Fray

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