Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Judy McGregor has told a Parliamentary committee that a proposed starting-out wage for young people fails human rights laws.
The committee has begun hearing submissions on a bill that would allow some 16-to-19 year olds to be paid 80% of the minimum wage, or $10.80 an hour.
Ms McGregor told MPs the proposed law is repugnant to justice.
She said it embeds discrimination and unequal pay in a person's first job experience which perpetuates stereotypes about young workers and will have scarring effects just as unemployment does.
Retailers association's chief executive John Albertson says margins are tight in the retail sector and cheaper youth wages could create jobs.
Mr Albertson says the proposed youth wage wouldn't be discriminatory because young people are often less experienced and less productive than older employees.