Jim Chalmers, the new treasurer, is speaking to the ABC Insiders program.
He’s asked if wage growth of 3.5% is sustainable, and if it’s not, then where should wage growth be? He claims “wage stagnation” was “enthusiastically pursued” by the previous government.
We have a common interest in dealing with inflation and boosting wages based on a productive workforce, which is our focus.
I’m not interested in nominating a specific number. Our job is to get wages growing sustainably, growing strongly.
Victoria reports 15 Covid deaths.
Victorian health officials have reported 15 deaths from Covid-19, with 5,824 new cases.
Updated at 19.21 EDT
Exploitation and peril in Sri Lanka
With Sri Lanka on the brink of economic collapse, more and more people are looking to escape the country, and some are risking perilous journeys on boats.
But there are claims of exploitation, particularly in Tamil regions, where the economic crisis comes on top of existing unease at the minority’s ongoing oppression.
The Guardian has spoken to senior sources, police, and the people caught up in human trafficking rings.
Devana Senanayake in Colombo, Aliyar Mohammed Geeth in Trincomalee, and Guardian Australia’s Ben Doherty in Sydney have the story.
A boat with Sri Lankan migrants tried to reach Australia in 2016. Photograph: Future Publishing/Getty Images
Updated at 19.19 EDT
Clare defends crossbenchers’ staff cut
This morning, the education minister Jason Clare defended the government’s decision to cut independent MPs and senators’ staffing allocation.
Under the allocation, announced on Friday, independents will have four electorate staff and one extra adviser, down from four additional advisers under the Morrison government.
Clare told Sky News:
If you’re a Labor MP, or Liberal MP, or a Nat, you get four staff. If you’re a crossbench MP, you get eight. That seems to me to be a bit out of whack. What Albo is saying here is that if you’re a crossbench MP, you’ll get an extra staff member, above what a Labor, Liberal, or Nat will get. And we’ll put additional resourcing into the parliamentary library. That seems to me to be pretty fair.
Clare revealed that the total salary bill of government staff had been cut by $1.5m and opposition staff by $350,000.
People come to this job not for the pay but for the opportunity it provides to make a difference. Everyone is taking a haircut here, whether it is government staff, or opposition staff … Most Australians would say you’ve been elected, now knuckle down and do the job.
Just some quick maths here. If Labor’s staffing allocation has been cut by $1.5m, if that were spread evenly across its 23 cabinet members, that’s a cut of $65,000 in each office.
That sort of cut can be achieved by having one less person at the senior adviser level and hiring them as a junior adviser.
For crossbench MPs and senators losing three staff each, that’s more like a cut of at least $400,000 in salaries in each office and can’t be achieved without a reduction in head count.
Updated at 19.20 EDT
Victoria to have a new cabinet.
Victorian premier Dan Andrews finalized his new cabinet and ministry late yesterday, with new ministers to be sworn in tomorrow.
Andrews’ reshuffle – sparked by four high-level resignations – puts 14 women in the state’s cabinet, which he said was the highest of any jurisdiction in Australia.
The new deputy premier, Jacinta Allan, is the most senior, who replaces James Merlino. Allan will also have oversight of the delivery of the 2026 Commonwealth Games.
Other cabinet appointments are:
Lizzie Blandthorn – minister for planning and leader of the House
Colin Brooks – minister for child protection and family services and minister for disability, aging, and carers
Steve Dimopoulos – minister for tourism, sport, and major events and minister for creative industries
Sonya Kilkenny – minister for corrections, minister for youth justice, minister for victim support, and minister for fishing and boating
Harriet Shing – minister for water, minister for regional development, and minister for equality
Updated at 19.23 EDT
Graham Readfearn here reaching for the cranking handle to get our live news coverage moving for this Sunday.
Here’s a quick reminder of what happened yesterday.
At least 56 people died after catching Covid-19 across Australia.
Victoria, health officials said Omicron BA.4/BA.5 would become the dominant strain in the coming weeks.
Foreign minister Penny Wong announced visits to Vietnam and Malaysia this week as the Albanese government continues its early diplomatic push in the region.
Jacinta Allan is Victoria’s new deputy premier, with premier Daniel Andrews announcing his new ministry after four cabinet resignations. There’s a state election in November.
Minister for women Katy Gallagher said the US supreme court decision to overturn Roe v Wade was “really disappointing”. Environment minister Tanya Plibersek said the reproductive choice was “a fundamental human right”.
I hope you’re staying warm and safe. Let’s get going with the day.
Updated at 18.45 EDT