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Tuesday, 24 February 2015
Page: 1114

Ms BUTLER (Griffith) (15:35): The only ones scaring Australian workers are this Prime Minister, this government and this Minister for Employment. When the Minister for Employment said that penalty rates would stay, regardless of the Productivity Commission review, it demonstrated again to me how much the government and their ministers do not understand the bills they have before the parliament. If the government were serious about backing down on cuts to penalty rates, they would withdraw their amendments to the Fair Work Act. The individual flexibility agreements in the bills that are sitting before the Senate do one thing: they make people trade away their penalty rates; they make people give up their penalty rates in order to keep their jobs. And we know that this is what they do, because of the way in which workers have spoken out about their concerns over the six pieces of legislation that attack working people that are sitting before the Senate as we speak. You cannot trust this government when it comes to industrial relations. Working people do not trust this government. That is why they are speaking out in such opposition to this government's plans for industrial relations.

You have to hand it to this minister for creativity. He tries to bring in cuts to penalty rates by amending the Fair Work Act. We caught him out and working people spoke up. Then he announces a Productivity Commission review that is so broad that it goes to the effort of making specific reference to penalty rates. Then today we have seen another backdown, or backflip, from this minister. What is next? Is he going to try to introduce legislation to cut the minimum wage and cut penalty rates? You just cannot trust this government when it comes to industrial relations. Take the Prime Minister's contradictions on this very particular issue. He was declaring that Work Choices was dead, buried and cremated in 2010, on the eve of an election, and then in a radio interview only a few weekends ago he was talking about penalty rates. He said:

If you don't want to work on a weekend, fair enough, don't work on a weekend, but if you do want to work on a weekend and lots of people, particularly young people, particularly students, would love to work on the weekend, you want to see the employers open to provide jobs ... there are lots of places that are now closed that used to be open.

I don't begrudge people the money … but in the end there's a balance …

So he is saying there needs to be a balance struck between people who want to work on weekends and people who do not want to work on weekends. All that says is that, if you work on the weekend, be prepared not to get paid penalty rates. They are the words of the Prime Minister—a longwinded attack saying, 'Fine, work on the weekends but you won't get penalty rates.' Just how much are these penalty rates worth? This is what members of the backbench of the government do not understand. In hospitality, the very industry where the Prime Minister is saying fine, don't work on the weekend, penalty rates are worth $235 per week. That is a third of their wage. I would like to see the entire government, every MP, give up a third of their wage. If they want workers to give up a third of their wage, then they should be prepared to give up a third of their wage. Do they work on weekends? Do they work long hours? They get paid extra. If they want these workers to give up a third of their wages, they should be prepared to do the same.

This is the contradiction of this government. They are saying right here, right now, that they want to cut penalty rates. They are all trying to interject, supporting the Prime Minister's comments that penalty rates should be cut. But we know that is unpopular, and we know it is unpopular because the polls prove it. Essential Media suggests that a large majority of voters do not buy the argument being put forward by the Prime Minister and the government. Only 18 per cent of voters believe that lower weekend penalty rates would mean that businesses would employ more workers. It is an absolute furphy. All this government wishes to do is attack working people—they are not interested in creating jobs and they are not interested in protecting some of our lowest paid workers.