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Monday, 20 August 2018
Page: 7846


Ms O'TOOLE (Herbert) (11:58): I rise in this place today to speak on behalf of the 700,000 workers in Australia who have had their penalty rates cut under the Turnbull government. Workers across Australia and particularly in my electorate of Herbert rely on penalty rates to make ends meet and fundamentally to survive. These workers rely on their penalty rates to raise their families, pay their mortgages, if they can afford one, pay electricity bills, buy food and pay the many other bills that keep going up and up under this government.

In my electorate of Herbert, nearly 13,000 retail, hospitality and accommodation workers have had their pay cut. As of 1 July this year, the second round of penalty rate cuts impacted on some of the lowest-paid and most vulnerable workers. These cuts go far deeper and will take $77 a week from workers in the retail, food and accommodation sectors. That $77 could buy a tank of petrol to get the worker to work; $77 could buy groceries to feed the family; $77 could pay for children's weekly sporting activities; $77 could pay for new textbooks and school activities for students. The Prime Minister and those opposite should be ashamed of themselves, because, for a retail worker, $77 a week could be the difference between putting three square meals on the table or having only two or one. Instead of standing up for these workers and protecting their penalty rates, the Turnbull government simply turned away, leaving these workers out of pocket. In fact, the Prime Minister has said their penalty rates were outdated. Since when has earning a fair day's pay for a fair day's work, including penalty rates, been outdated? What a disgrace! The cost of living is going up, but workers' pay rates are stagnating. I'm here today to say enough is enough.

In my electorate of Herbert, 7,248 retail workers and 5,674 accommodation service workers have had their pay cut. Many of these workers are currently studying at university and TAFE. A pay cut of $77 a week is absolutely devastating, especially when a recent survey has revealed regional university students are flat out putting three square meals on the table. The 2017 Universities Australia Student Finances Survey, released on 13 August 2018, showed one in five students from regional areas regularly go without food and other necessities because of financial hardship. They also defer their university studies because of the costs, which are at a rate of almost twice that of their metropolitan counterparts. The same survey revealed that the majority of students, 83 per cent, support themselves through work. Students from regional areas like my electorate face significant shortfalls between their income and expenses, and yet the Turnbull government is doing absolutely nothing about it.

The Prime Minister may never have had to rely on penalty rates to get by; he just doesn't seem to understand what it is like to need penalty rates to survive. Time and again, the Turnbull government has clearly shown where its priorities lie. This is a government that is happy to cut $4,000 a year from workers' wages but give a big tax handout to big business and the banks.

Rest assured, Labor will always fight for workers. Labor understands penalty rates aren't a luxury. Penalty rates pay the bills and put food on the table for many thousands of people. I am proud to stand with the Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten, and my Labor colleagues to take up the fight to restore workers' penalty rates. I'm proud to be part of a Shorten led team that is committed to restoring penalty rates in the first 100 days of a Shorten Labor government. I am proud to be part of a Shorten team that will legislate to ensure that penalty rates can never be cut again. I say to the 700,000 workers who have had their rates cut by the Turnbull government: your voice does matter; you certainly deserve to be paid penalty rates; your pay certainly matters. Your vote matters; just make sure it counts.