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Colin Brinsden, AAP Economics Correspondent
(Australian Associated Press)
The small business ombudsman has hit back at Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s pursuit of a living wage rather than a minimum wage, saying an increase would be a “devastating blow” to small firms.
“Let’s be quite clear that this proposal is a war on small business, not big business,” the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell said in a statement on Wednesday.
Mr Shorten, in his first major speech of the year on Tuesday, argued the minimum wage is no longer a living wage and said the present system of slow, incremental increases was seeing too many working people fall behind.
But Ms Carnell said nearly half of small business owners already earned less than the minimum wage and for those people, an increase in awards would mean job losses, limited employment opportunities and businesses closing.
She said the consequences of hiking the minimum wage would need to be thoroughly investigated, particularly the impact it would have on small businesses.
“A reality check on this issue is certainly required,” she said.
Labor finance spokesman Jim Chalmers backed his leader’s call, believing it was possible to responsibly lift the minimum wage.
It would be subject to a process via the Fair Work Commission with input from all sectors of the economy, which he thought was a good way to go about it.
“We want to make sure that people aren’t left behind. We want to make sure that people can provide for themselves and also spend in the economy so that we can get the growth that we need,” Mr Chalmers told Sky News.