The comments came one day after Mr Shorten appeared to leave the door open to extending the childcare pay scheme to other industries, when he said on Monday: «We have picked childcare workers to go first.»
Labor workplace relations spokesman Brendan O’Connor clarified the position early on Tuesday by telling ABC Radio there were «no plans» to extend the idea to other industries because childcare was an «exceptional» case.
The wage boost for childcare workers is estimated to cost the Commonwealth $9.9 billion over a decade.
Mr Shorten’s remarks answer a challenge from Education Minister Dan Tehan on Tuesday morning to explain whether other sectors would get the same wage supplement.
«We don’t know where it will lead to,» Mr Tehan said of the Labor proposal.
«What other sectors are they going to use taxpayers’ money to pay for wage increases? This is, this is extraordinary, and it is just purely and utterly a bribe to the unions.»
Mr Tehan called the wage boost an «incredibly unusual» arrangement.
«It is basically an arrangement where they are bribing the union to go and stand on childcare centres, at childcare centres, and vote, and tell people to vote for Labor,» he said.
The final report of the royal commission into aged care is one year away, with an official deadline of 30 April 2020.
Health Service Union national secretary Lloyd Williams said on Monday: «Aged care desperately needs attention and so does disability.»
Leading Age Services Australia, which represents aged-care providers, has launched an «I care for aged care» campaign and said on Monday that its sector needed more support.
«Aged care is just as important as health and education. But yet again, it seems our older Australians are being forgotten,» said LASA chief Sean Rooney.
Mr Shorten acknowledged that aged care workers should be paid more but said any consideration of this would have to wait for the completion of the royal commission.
«Let’s see what the royal commission produces in the way of it.
«I want to pay a compliment to our aged-care workers. They do a lot of work with a lot of vulnerable people. I think that we need to invest more in aged care generally, but I think let’s have the royal commission.
«The solution we’ve looked at for early childhood educators is a recognition that nothing else has worked. They are underpaid, they are highly trained and it’s long overdue that we do the right thing.»
Mr Shorten said a Labor government would increase pay packets by reversing a cut to penalty rates by the workplace regulator.
«In terms of the first industry to see wages move, we have other mechanisms to help other industries,» he said.
«I make no apology for the fact that I want to reverse the penalty rate cuts, which the McKell Institute says if they’re not reversed that’s $2.8 billion of pay taken out of the pockets of hundreds of thousands of low-paid workers.»
David Crowe is Chief Political Correspondent of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.