Labor pledges major offensive on wages

Bill Shorten promises an all-out push to restore penalty rates and lift wages if Labor wins office.
Bill Shorten promises an all-out push to restore penalty rates and lift wages if Labor wins office.

Labor leader Bill Shorten has promised to launch a "full-throated" offensive in pursuit of wage rises if he wins the upcoming election.

Mr Shorten took his federal election campaign to the north Queensland city of Cairns on Monday, where Liberal MP Warren Enstch holds the local seat of Leichhardt by 3.9 per cent.

Standing deep in a rainforest alongside the Great Barrier Reef, he promised $190 million worth of regional tourism funding.

Mr Shorten also vowed to tear up a "dodgy" $444 million grant to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.

After focusing heavily on health in the first week of his campaign, Mr Shorten is switching gears to wages as he targets a swag of marginal seats in the sunshine state.

The opposition leader pledged to take immediate action on "modest and meaningful" pay raises if Labor claims victory on May 18.

"We're going to use the full force of commonwealth advocacy to support a wage improvement, a wage increase, for 2.2 million Australians," he told reporters.

"A government I lead will make a full-throated, full-bodied submission to the independent umpire."

Labor has calculated that hundreds of thousands of hospitality, retail and pharmacy workers stand to lose up to $27,000 each through penalty rate cuts over the next three years.

Mr Shorten has promised to restore the penalty rate cuts within 100 days of taking office, saying low paid workers are being sucked into a "laboratory of extreme right-wing thinking."

Various Senate crossbenchers say they will only support him if Labor also legislates a ban on unions trading away penalty rates.

But Mr Shorten is not interested.

"The tail does not wag the dog here," he said.

"We use the word mandate a lot in politics. I'm going to be very clear - if we get elected, we've got the mandate to change the penalty rates."

Mr Shorten and wife Chloe enjoyed a few peaceful minutes on a glass-floored chair lift through the tropics before he stepped into a flurry of questions about the Adani coal mine.

The opposition has raised serious questions about federal environmental approvals granted to the Carmichael mine, questioning whether the minister involved was bullied.

Asked five times whether he would review the approvals if Labor wins office, Mr Shorten did not rule it out but said he had "no plans".

The coalition holds 21 of 30 federal Queensland seats, but Labor is well within striking distance of pinching eight electorates the LNP holds by less than 6 per cent.

Adani is a major issue in a fistful of central and north Queensland seats Labor is trying to either steal or sandbag at the election.

In Brisbane, stopping Adani is an issue among climate change-conscious voters in marginal seats, including Peter Dutton's electorate of Dickson which he holds by 1.7 per cent.

Australian Associated Press