Confirmation today that Australia has suffered the highest annual inflation for more than a decade makes a mockery of the Federal Government’s opposition to a wage rise for the country’s lowest paid workers, the ACTU said.

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures for the March quarter show that the Consumer Price Index rose 1.1 per cent to give an annual inflation rate of six per cent â013 the highest since December 1990.

‘These figures make a mockery of John Howard’s mean-spirited opposition to the ACTU’s Living Wage application for a modest $28 a week rise for the most poorly paid people in our country,’ ACTU Secretary Greg Combet said.

‘The burden of the GST is falling on ordinary Australian workers who are already struggling to make ends meet. These figures are particularly disturbing because they show massive increases in the price of the basic necessities of food, education and health care.’

The figures showed vegetable prices soared 20 per cent, pharmaceutical costs rose 9.3 per cent and education costs increased 4.4 per cent in the last three months.

‘The ACTU has demonstrated that the $28 Living Wage increase would not add to inflation but would assist low paid workers,’ Mr Combet said.

‘After pumping up inflation with his GST, the Prime Minister continues to oppose a wage rise for the two million Australians working for minimum award rates,’ Mr Combet said.

‘Despite his promise that no worker would be worse off, Mr Howard is ensuring that the most vulnerable people in our society bear the brunt of his changes.

‘These figures destroy the Government’s claim of superior economic management. The only real record this Government holds is the creation of the highest inflation rate in a decade.’

The Australian Industrial Relations Commission is expected to hand down its decision on the ACTU’s Living Wage application next week.