SYDNEY: Australia's new centre-left Labor government on Friday proposed raising the minimum wage to ease the financial burden on families hit by soaring energy prices and a spike in consumer price inflation.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who was sworn in last week, said his government had submitted an application with the independent wage-setting body that could help raise the pay of the lowest-paid workers from A$20.33 ($14.77) an hour.
"Workers on the minimum wage deserve a pay rise," Albanese said on Twitter. "Rising costs are putting real pressure on family budgets. And these costs are harder to meet because of a decade of deliberate decisions by the previous government to keep wages low."
The Fair Work Commission will decide on the minimum wage in the next few weeks, a ruling affecting more than 2 million workers, though the government can make a recommendation on the size of the award.
Employment Minister Tony Burke said the government did not want the wages "of anyone go backwards but this is at its most acute for low wage earners."
With inflation rising twice as fast as wages, real incomes are in the red.
The new government is also tackling a spike in domestic wholesale prices of electricity and gas as demand for energy rises with colder weather.
During the election campaign, Albanese promised he would support a 5.1% rise in wages, matching inflation.
Amid a sharp rise in living costs, data on Wednesday showed Australia's gross domestic product rose 0.8% in the March quarter, topping market forecasts, setting the scene for more inflation-fighting interest rate increases by the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA).
Economists polled by Reuters said in a survey published on Friday that the RBA would raise rates by 25 basis points at its June policy meeting next week, with some predicting a 40 basis point rise to 0.75%.
Markets are also priced in for an increase.
($1 = 1.3761 Australian dollars)
(Reporting by Renju Jose; Editing by Robert Birsel and Kim Coghill)