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Monday, 29 October 2012
Page: 12376


Mrs ANDREWS (McPherson) (12:41): I have already spoken on penalty rates but this topic is clearly of significance to all Australians. I have some additional points I want to put on the record, and I will take this opportunity to do that now. When I spoke earlier I talked about ABS data for underemployment and the underutilisation rate we have in Australia. I think that deserves a little more expansion.

The underemployed are individuals who are currently employed but are willing and able to work more hours. These are predominantly your part-time workers. For example, they may be working 20 hours a week but could be working 24 or 30 hours a week but they just cannot find the work to be able to do that. That is who fits into the underemployment category generally. That rate increased from 6.4 per cent in August 2007 to 7.2 per cent in August 2012.

The underutilisation rate is somewhat different because it picks up the unemployment rate and the underemployment rate, so it represents all individuals who are willing and able to do more work regardless of their employment status. It does not pick up a number of statistics that really should be represented in there. My point here is that the underemployment rate and consequently the underutilisation rate are not really reflective of what is happening in industry and in the population at present because there are some individuals and groups of people who are not represented in the statistics, so, in fact, the rate could be significantly higher. Those people could in some cases be students, second earners and older Australians, who would all be ready, willing and able to take on additional duties in a part-time capacity or for just a couple of hours on a Saturday or Sunday. These people are out there and they are ready, willing and able to work.

As we all know, employment provides more than just remuneration; it provides a whole range of benefits, including self-esteem and self-worth for the individual. I strongly believe that we should be doing what we can to provide opportunities for those individuals to contribute and to earn money. It is very important that we look at what we are trying to do with the whole penalty rates review and make sure that that addresses those issues in particular so that we are actively enabling people to be employed within the community.

I also spoke previously about tourism. That is an enormous sector of our work on the Gold Coast where my electorate of McPherson is based. For many of those tourism businesses and the businesses that support the tourism sector, their busiest days are Saturdays and Sundays, and it is not just because of tourists, it is because of many locals as well. Some examples would be the wildlife parks and the theme parks et cetera. School holidays are clearly a very busy period simply because of the increased numbers of tourists, but there are also numbers of locals holidaying at that time. But today if we speak specifically about the Saturdays and Sundays, that is the peak period for these parks and that is where the penalty rates apply, creating some real issues with the profitability of those businesses. The rates they charge for entry to their parks on Saturdays and Sundays are generally the same as they have to offer to visitors on Monday to Friday. But Mondays to Fridays are certainly not busy days and they struggle during those days.

What needs to be reviewed as part of the ongoing investigation and analysis of penalty rates is how we can review what is happening in our key industries such as tourism and make sure that we are balancing the needs of the employer and the needs of the employees and needs of our future workers, ensuring that we are coming up with something that is going to be sustainable into the future.

Debate adjourned.