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Tuesday, 26 June 2018
Page: 6390


Mrs ELLIOT (Richmond) (15:49): This is an arrogant and out-of-touch government with all the wrong priorities, and the people of regional and rural Australia have been abandoned by this government and, in particular, by the National Party. As I often say, National Party choices hurt, and their choices—their bad choices—hurt the people in the country time and time again. Whether it's the National Party's cuts to health care, their cuts to education, their cuts to penalty rates, their cuts to pensions or their cuts to child care, the fact is National Party MPs have time and time again come into this House and voted against the interests of regional Australia. That is a fact. The reality is that times are always tougher when the National Party's in government, especially with many of the changes coming into place on 1 July—firstly, the cuts to penalty rates. Nationally, up to 4.5 million workers rely on penalty rates: police officers, firefighters, paramedics, nurses and workers in health care, aged care, retail, hospitality, tourism and many other sectors.

Penalty rates for hospitality, fast-food, retail and pharmacy awards will be cut again this Sunday, 1 July. In regional areas like my electorate, thousands are employed in these industries. The penalty rate cuts will hurt local workers and severely cut their take-home pay but will also be devastating for our local economy and local businesses as less money will be spent. Those opposite don't understand this issue. Cutting penalty rates hurts workers and impacts upon regional economies and local businesses; that is a fact. We believe it's fundamentally unfair to cut the wages of some of Australia's lowest paid workers—people who rely on penalty rates to pay the bills, put food on the table and raise their children. We need to protect those in our community who will be badly affected when these penalty rates are cut.

This government won't do anything to help them, and it shows how wrong its priorities are and how harsh its choices are. The penalty rate cuts will be devastating throughout the nation, but they will hit really hard in regional and rural areas. We know the Prime Minister and his government continue to actively campaign for those cuts to penalty rates and refuse to protect workers who rely on those penalty rates. I call on the government to do the right thing and support our bill to protect penalty rates. Just this week the Leader of the Opposition introduced a bill to protect those penalty rates that will be cut this July, next July and the July after that. Our bill would stop those cuts and ensure penalty rates would never be cut again. Stopping those cuts to penalty rates could happen if the Prime Minister and his Liberal-National government joined us to bring this bill on for a vote and voted for it.

This government has had eight opportunities in the parliament to protect penalty rates, and it voted against protecting them eight times. That's eight specific times that National Party members have voted against the interests of people in regional and rural Australia—a shameful record! This is an attack on low-paid workers, who will have those penalty rates cut again this weekend on 1 July. This time the cuts will be even deeper for them. Penalty rates are not a luxury; they put food on the table and pay the bills. It's clear that the only way to protect penalty rates is to elect a Shorten Labor government. That's something that people in regional areas know: only Labor will stand up for them. In the regions and rural parts of Australia The Nationals will be held responsible for their continued cuts to penalty rates and their continued refusal to support workers.

As well as the harsh cuts to penalty rates, the government's unfair changes to child care begin next week. We already know the new system will leave one in four families worse off: over 270,000 families. It's an unfair package from an out-of-touch and arrogant government. The Liberal-National childcare package will hurt those families who can least afford it and reduce access to early education for those kids who need it most. Childcare fees under this government have gone up over $2,000 on average. It's time this out-of-touch and arrogant government understands that families are doing it tough and need assistance. It's not being provided by this government at all.

This government and the National Party have totally abandoned regional and rural Australia. As I say constantly in this House, National Party choices hurt. People in the regions know how harsh the decisions that the National Party make are. In contrast to all of those harsh choices by the National Party, Labor has always fought for the country and for the regions. We have always delivered for regional Australia by investing in health care and schools, building roads and infrastructure, and addressing inequality. Very importantly, Labor supports a fairer tax system, unlike The Nationals, who, shamefully, support tax cuts for multinationals and big business. What a clear contrast and a clear difference! Labor stands up for the country. That's the reality. That's what we do. Only Labor deliver again and again for the people of regional and rural Australia, because we have their backs. We have the backs of people in country Australia, and we will always support them and always stand with them, unlike this government, which prioritises multimillionaires and big business over country people.