STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS - Workplace Relations

27 June 2018

I rise to speak about the very important issue of penalty rate cuts. We have heard a lot about how they will have devastating impacts on the household budgets of some of the lowest income earners in this country. But I would like to talk about how they are, in fact, compensation—fair compensation for working unsociable hours. People who work on weekends and evenings miss valuable time with their families. They miss time with their children. They miss spending time with their friends, just having fun and getting a work-life balance. Those on the other side say there is no such thing as a 24/7 society, but nearly 90 per cent of the workforce still work Monday to Friday. People who work on weekends serving us while we're having fun deserve compensation, and that compensation should be universal.

The other side say that emergency workers don't deserve penalty rate cuts. Who is to say that a nurse's time with her family and her children is any more important than a retail worker's time with her family and her children? That is an absolute nonsense. It does not make sense. We know that this is the thin edge of the wedge. We know that hairdressers are now in line for penalty rate cuts. We know that some providers in the health sector have tried to cut penalty rates for nurses on the back of these cuts. We know that it is only time before this spreads like a scourge, a disease, right across industries.

To say penalty rates destroy jobs is nonsense. We know that, in retail and hospitality, jobs actually grew, as did profits in that sector, under the old penalty rates regime. Even the Fair Work Commission has said it will have little or no impact on jobs. The government needs to back Labor on protecting penalty rates and it needs to back workers.