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Tuesday, 18 September 2012
Page: 11036

Ms LEY (Farrer) (17:07): I welcome the opportunity to respond to the minister's statement on penalty rates and public holidays. I do find that his views appear to contradict those of the Minister for Tourism and former ACTU boss Minister Ferguson, who I understand attended a conference in Hobart recently and indicated his concern regarding the retention of penalty rates and the impact on the tourism industry. Minister Ferguson stated:

I hope the bench of Fair Work Australia has given proper regard to the input of the tourism industry in this context because I understand that is the key issue to industry at this point in time.

From the outset, it is important to reiterate the position of the coalition. We are adamant that the determination of modern awards rests with Fair Work Australia. And may I assure everyone with an interest in this matter that Fair Work Australia will continue to have a central role under any future coalition government. But none of this detracts from the coalition's very real concern about small business and for the job opportunities of young Australians.

Those concerns are well reflected in the submissions to the Fair Work review, made by, for example, the Retailers Association, the chambers of commerce, Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland, Business SA and the Accommodation Association of Australia as well as unions and employee organisations. The independent umpire is best placed to make a decision on the determinations contained in modern awards. We will accept the umpire's decision, and I would urge those opposite to do the same. Why would the government that created Fair Work Australia not trust its own independent umpire in this or any other matter? Fair Work Australia is a quasi-judicial body containing panel members who are drawn from industry, business and unions, representing the entire spectrum of the workplace from every perspective. Yet we have this minister today, in the middle of the review process, seeking to insert himself into such a process with this ministerial statement.

Of course the opposition supports penalty rates and public holidays. They have been part of the employment landscape throughout successive coalition governments. It is totally unsurprising. We will not be wedged and verballed with this ministerial statement here today in this House. But, if the independent umpire is taking submissions and conducting a review, we will let that process take place. We will let the review take its course, as we should. Why does this minister not have faith in his own Fair Work Australia and the perfectly legitimate process upon which it has embarked? However, I would strongly urge Fair Work Australia to factor in ramifications for the broader economy when arriving at their determination. What we do not want to see, as Frank Crean once said, is for one man's pay rise to be another man's job.

It is of concern that, despite Minister Shorten's pledge that no worker should be worse off, he will not pledge that no worker will be out of a job because penalty rates could be adversely affecting a small business. It is apparent that there is an inherent mistrust of Fair Work Australia by the minister. We have a full bench here of Fair Work Australia considering the issue of penalty rates, yet the minister cannot wait for them to deliver a verdict. Instead he is intent on jumping the gun and telling them how they—an independent body—should respond. Their verdict should be based on common sense, as I am sure it will be, assessing the impact of broader economic benefit when they determine what equates to a fair day's pay on a public holiday or the correct penalty rate environment.

The coalition is two parties of aspiration. We believe in reward for effort, in rewarding those who work hard. We have a 10-point plan for business. We believe in supporting families. Those opposite, however, have presided over a 17 per cent increase in the cost of child care since Prime Minister Gillard came to power. Labor's paid parental leave scheme does not pay parents at their replacement wage. Instead it offers up just the minimum wage. This is leaving thousands of families worse off, as they have budgeted their mortgage and car repayments on actual salaries, not on one parent earning a minimum wage. Their paid parental leave scheme also omits superannuation contributions, meaning that Australian women are left even worse off than their male counterparts—$50,000 worse off by the time they retire, according to research undertaken by Suncorp.

Now, it is well and good for this government to hang their hat on penalty wages this week, but that does not prove their commitment to the best interests of Australian workers, families and business. The significant fee hikes necessary in child care have been the result of COAG reforms designed by those opposite. The carbon tax has seen electricity bills skyrocket. So families and businesses are really doing it tough under this government with its economic mismanagement.

On this theme I would like to remind the House that the Treasurer promised to create 500,000 new jobs in the 2011 budget—just two budgets ago. Regrettably, the Treasurer has since had to backflip on this promise and after 15 months only 57,600 more jobs are evident. I personally think those opposite would do better to focus on job creation and ensuring that they meet their own promises, instead of creating this quarrel against a decision yet to be made by a creation entirely of their own making. I conclude by saying we trust Fair Work Australia to proceed through its deliberations, and we do not anticipate that the minister's intervention today will make the slightest bit of difference.