Malcolm Turnbull

Abbott 'teaches' Turnbull on penalty rates

Former Australian PM Tony Abbott Source: AAP

The federal government has been quick to try to move the penalty rates issue on to Labor's patch, but Tony Abbott thinks it needs to change tack.

Former prime minister Tony Abbott has again publicly fronted up to Malcolm Turnbull, this time over the government's stance on penalty rate cuts.

It comes after the Fair Work Commission last week recommended Sunday rates be pared back for retail and hospitality workers.

"Against Labor's pitch of 'high wages' versus 'low wages', we need to pitch 'high wages' versus 'no wages'," Mr Abbott told The Australian in an interview.

The government has being trying to position the FWC decision as a pro-jobs, arguing businesses will hire more workers as their wages bills decrease.

But Labor is trying to pin the upcoming cuts to Sunday worker's pay on the government and wants Mr Turnbull to oppose them.

"The issue is not higher wages versus lower wages," Mr Abbott said.

"It's about making it possible for more businesses to stay open because if the business is shut no one gets paid anything."

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Thursday said the transition to the new rates should be done in "a way that ensures that take-home pay is as far as possible maintained".

Some government MPs think Mr Turnbull's verbal defence of the cuts hasn't cut through.

Cabinet minister Christopher Pyne told Nine Network it was a distraction and all part of Labor's "scare" campaign.

But Labor's Anthony Albanese said the government wasn't interest low paid workers and how the cuts will impact them.

"They're just interested in playing politics and this is now feeding into the Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull cage fight," the front bencher said.

"They're in a downward spiral and they're taking the entire government with them."

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch