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Catholic body calls for Minimum Wage Rates above poverty line

Media Release
April 2, 2003

Minimum wage rates must be set at levels which ensure low paid workers are not living below the poverty line, the Catholic Church's employment relations body has told the Safety Net Wage Review hearing.

Frank Costigan QC, appearing for the Australian Catholic Commission for Employment Relations (ACCER), said an inquiry must be held into the needs of the low paid.

The inquiry should also review the Federal Minimum Wage and establish a benchmark, or appropriate guidelines, against which the minimum wage should be set.

"In order to satisfy its statutory obligation to have regard to the needs of the low paid, the Commission must ensure that the minimum rates it sets (most particularly the Federal Minimum Wage) do not fall below the poverty line," Mr Costigan told the hearing.

"It is a fundamental need of the low paid not to live below the poverty line."

Mr Costigan pointed to support for ACCER's position from the Australian Council of Social Service which states in its submission that in 2000, among households whose main source of income was wages, 365,000 lived in poverty.

He said despite the pressing need for an inquiry, it must not be allowed to delay the Safety Net Review decision.

"On the contrary, ACCER urges the Commission to determine this Safety Net Review application as soon as possible, because any delay would be felt most by low paid workers," Mr Costigan said.

For more information or for interview, contact ACCER Executive Officer John Ryan on (03) 9614 8644.

3 Apr 2003