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Monday, 2 May 2016
Page: 4092


Ms VAMVAKINOU (Calwell) (11:13): I would like to congratulate the member for Bendigo for bringing this very important motion to the chamber for discussion. I do so because I have an electorate that is very much a place where the people who live there are of lower socioeconomic backgrounds and would probably be classified as some of the more disempowered people. Nevertheless, they are people who work for a living and rely very much on a work market or a workplace that is protected—that is, their pay and conditions and their work environment are protected. For that reason I am very pleased to stand here and support the member for Bendigo's motion and also to speak about some of the difficulties that my own constituents have faced, especially those in the liquor and hospitality industry and people who have been grievously exploited by small business operators. Small business operators carry on about the need to be allowed to create more jobs and they complain about penalty rates being a burden to them and that they cannot open on Sundays. But the reality is that small business has been a great beneficiary of an enormous exploitation of people as a result of paying cash and of using international students to undercut the minimum wage, creating a situation where people in my electorate cannot get a job because they are competing with what is obviously known to all of us—the black market. I appreciate that small business needs all the incentives it can get to create jobs, but the reality is it is not remiss of small business to exploit working people. That is something that it does. It needs to be reined in. That is why this motion is very important.

When I first became the member for Calwell, one of the groups that I worked with and met with was an organisation that provided support for families not in my electorate but in the northern suburbs of Melbourne. They provided support for those families who had lost loved ones in the building industry. I had the opportunity to meet a lot of families who had lost their sons, their fathers, their husbands in the building industry. The building industry is a place that can be terribly unsafe, especially for young tradespeople. The union movement, particularly the CFMEU and the building unions, rates and puts the protection of the workers and their pay conditions as the No. 1 priority. Often, that rubs up the nose of employers—of course it does. But the reality is that we need to protect those rights and those conditions. You do not demonise a union whose No. 1 job is, always, the protection of its workforce. The registered organisations bill seeks to isolate a particular organisation and to possibly try to weaken its existence. Therefore, I think that would lead to the lessening of the protections of the people in my electorate who work on building sites.

I also recall the great Work Choices election of a couple of elections ago. The people in my lecture came together, with members of the union, in order to campaign against the then Howard government's attempt to introduce Work Choices. Work Choices was about disempowering workers. It was about taking away protections for pay and conditions. That era, that we thought might have been behind us, is well and truly alive at this election. This election will be about not only jobs growth but the protection of pay and conditions for people such as those in my electorate. Penalty rates, in particular, are important to the people I represent. As the member for Bendigo has said, and as many others have said, it is the only opportunity that my constituents have to continue to meet the payments of their daily life and their commitments.

We have seen a massive deregularisation of the job market. Casualisation has brought about a huge underemployment. My constituents have been affected incredibly by this. Therefore, any attempt to do away with penalty rates will be defended proudly by us and by me as the member for Calwell because it goes to the core variability to meet their daily life— (Time expired)