Prime Minister Scott Morrison has savaged Anthony Albanese as a "complete loose unit" on the economy, arguing the Labor leader's wages push will "throw fuel on the fire" of rising interest rates and cost of living.
Mr Morrison has seized on Mr Albanese's support for wages growth to keep pace with soaring inflation to launch another attack on his opponent's economic credentials.
But the Prime Minister has refused to nominate a figure for the minimum wage, as he dodged questions on whether he would be comfortable seeing the nation's lowest paid workers suffer an effective pay cut.
Mr Albanese has accused Mr Morrison of being "loose with the truth", escalating a war of words over wages and cost of living in the final fortnight of the election campaign.
The Labor leader on Tuesday supported a wage hike which matched the 5.1 per cent inflation rate, declaring no worker should go "backwards".
Fronting reporters in Newcastle, Mr Morrison said Mr Albanese's call was "incredibly reckless" and demonstrated a lack of understanding about the link between wages, interest rates and the cost of living.
Mr Morrison attempted to link Mr Albanese's wages intervention with his economic gaffes at the start of the campaign.
'What [Mr Albanese] said yesterday, it is like throwing fuel on the fire of rising interest rates and rising cost of living," Mr Morrison said.
"[Mr Albanese] has had a lot to say about cost of living. He's got no solutions or policies to put downward pressure on it. And what he did yesterday, would only exacerbate it, it would only make the problem worse."
"Anthony Albanese, his intervention yesterday, and his thoughtlessness on this would actually make inflation worse."
Coalition ministers have painted Mr Albanese's stance as an "unprecedented" intervention into the Fair Work Commission's process of setting the minimum wage.
The minimum wage is $20.33 a hour, or $772.60 a week, but is currently undergoing its annual review.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions this week upped its claim from 5 to 5.5 per cent, saying anything less would leave low-paid workers "drowning in bills".
Mr Albanese doesn't support the unions' claim, but made clear in multiple media appearances on Tuesday that wages growth should match soaring inflation.
Mr Morrison was asked on Wednesday if his dismissal of a 5.1 per cent rise meant he was comfortable with low-paid workers effectively suffering a cut to real wages.
He deflected the question, saying it was up to the commission to make the wages ruling.
"If we wanted politicians to make this up, then that's what we would have done. But that's not wise," he said.
Campaigning in the seat of North Sydney, Mr Albanese stood by his call for wages to keep pace with inflation - but denied he was advocating for them to be directly linked.
Mr Albanese attacked Mr Morrison for not supporting a pay rise for low-paid workers, including cleaners and retail workers.
"Those people are really struggling with cost of living increases, and what Scott Morrison says is that it's OK to find $30 million for a block of land that's worth $3 million," he said.
"It's OK his government can always find money for sports rorts, for commuter car park rorts, for all of this activity, he's OK to waste ... a billion dollars, literally on advertising of the government itself, but backing a $1 an hour pay increase is not OK."
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