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Tuesday, 25 November 1986
Page: 2683


Senator LEWIS —by leave-As a member of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory, I had an addendum to this report in the nature of a minority report. I support most of the recommendations and I certainly support what Senator Reid has been saying, but I was concerned about one aspect of the recommendations which I felt should have been advanced and that was to do with the wage rates payable under the current wage system in the hospitality industry. The problem is that for the hospitality industry in the Australian Capital Territory to expand in the face of its travel problems-I will come to those in a few moments-and in competition with capital cities, it has to provide absolutely first class service at modest prices seven days a week and 24 hours a day, and the hospitality industry in the Australian Capital Territory needs to have that reputation known right around Australia and, indeed, internationally.

The report makes it quite clear that that service is not available at competitive rates under the current wage system. The report concedes that inordinately high penalty rates at weekends and public holidays are a disincentive to the provision of services and hence to employment in the industry. I recognise that total deregulation of wages in the hospitality industry would create the fear in the minds of some people that it might lead to what is called `sweat shop' conditions, but I do believe that it is necessary in this industry to adopt awards which would enable an hourly rate of pay to be payable throughout the week-a week of seven days and 24 hours each day. It may very well be that, as a result of market forces operating, that wage would be variable at weekends and in the evenings, but that generally opportunities would be created for service if there were an hourly rate of pay payable as a minimum across the board 24 hours a day, seven days a week instead of these excessively high penalty rates that apply under the awards. What is happening is that employers in those circumstances are simply not employing staff over weekends or at night, so the service is not available. Accordingly, I have recommended that employers and employees in this industry in the Australian Capital Territory be free to enter into agreements as to wages and conditions outside awards, save that such agreements must provide for at least the relevant award rate of pay calculated at the hourly rate for ordinary weekly hours of work.

I mentioned the travel problem for the Australian Capital Territory. It must be recognised that Canberra is off the main tourist routes but that it is an attractive venue for both Australian and foreign tourists. The problem is to keep the tourists in the Australian Capital Territory for more than a brief visit. There is more that tourists can see and do in Canberra than just take one hour to visit the National Gallery and one hour to visit the Australian War Memorial. That is not enough time to look at the national park and other areas around Canberra which are not currently on the main tourist routes. The de- restriction of bus services to Canberra will help very much but the major problem arises with the air fare regulation and control and, unfortunately, lack of promotion by the industry in the Australian Capital Territory. I was unable to make any recommendation in this area other than to draw the matter to people's attention.

Finally, I have to say that I cannot agree with recommendation 19 which recommended that junior rates of pay apply only to permanent employees. That would mean that non-permanent employees who are of a young age would have to be paid adult rates of pay. That seems once again to be a total hindrance to opportunities being created for young people in the Australian Capital Territory to get into this industry. It is a growth industry; there are opportunities for good careers in it and I think that every opportunity should be taken for young people to be encouraged to go into it. The way to do that is to enable employers to employ young people at a rate of pay which is acceptable to the employer. There is a bottom which is created by unemployment relief. Young people would not be expected to work for anything less than the rate of unemployment relief. Nevertheless, if there were deregulation of junior rates of pay I am sure there would be many more opportunities for young people to enter this industry. Accordingly, I cannot agree with recommendation 19.