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Wednesday, 14 November 2018
Page: 8148

Senator URQUHART (TasmaniaOpposition Whip in the Senate) (15:42): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to table an explanatory memorandum relating to the bill.

Leave granted.

Senator URQUHART: I table an explanatory memorandum and I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—


The Australian Labor Party knows penalty rates matter.

We know that for many Australians, they are what pay the bills and puts food on the table.

I know from personal experience just how important penalty rates can be.

The simple fact is like many migrants my family could never have survived without penalty rates when we emigrated from Scotland.

They were absolutely essential for me as a migrant blue-collar worker.

My penalty rates put food on the table for my family.

My penalty rates helped pay for the essentials like petrol and utilities.

My penalty rates made sure I could pay my mortgage and before I was able to buy a home, they meant I could pay my rent and keep a roof over my family's head.

I know - and Labor knows - that penalty rates aren't "a bit extra", they are an integral part of the weekly take-home pay of Australian workers.

On this side of the chamber we understand that penalty rates make all the difference to working families struggling to makes ends meet.

That's why Labor will not stand by and allow people on low incomes who rely on penalty rates to have their take home pay cut.

I'm very proud to today introduce a Private Senator's Bill on behalf of the Labor Party to protect the take-home pay of Australian workers into the future - and to restore the Sunday penalty rates of up to 700,000 Australian working people.

Unlike the chronically out-of-touch Morrison Government, we understand that this is an incredibly important economic issue, because cutting penalty rates hurts our economy.

At a time when Australian workers are experiencing the lowest wage growth in the past 25 years it is astonishing that we have a Prime Minister and a Government that are not willing to take action as the incomes of some of Australia's lowest paid workers are cut.

It's not just unfair - it is bad economics.

When workers have less disposable income, they spend less in their local shops; in small businesses, in the corner shops and in the cafes.

Cutting penalty rates dampens consumer confidence and it deepens already widening inequality.

Cutting penalty rates hurts young people, it hurts Australian women, and it hurts the regions.

This bill provides every member of the Senate with an opportunity to support Australia's low income workers - to support them and their families - by restoring cuts to penalty rates and ensuring that they can never be cut again.

These workers need our support.

We know that, under this government, energy bills are through the roof.

We know that out-of-pocket healthcare costs have gone up and up under this government.

We know that more Australians than ever are experiencing rental and mortgage stress - with more than 1 million Australian dedicating more than 30% of their income to housing costs.

And we know that this government lacks any agenda to inclusively grow our economy or combat low wage growth.

If members of this Parliament actually want to do something that will help people I invite them to vote for this legislation to restore Sunday penalty rates.

It will have a meaningful and immediate impact for Australian families doing it tough.

The effect of this legislation passing the Parliament will be that, from the date of commencement, Sunday and public holiday penalty rates in retail, hospitality, fast food and pharmacy will return to the level they were on 30 June 2017.

And, this legislation passing will also stop further cuts coming into force on 1 July 2019 and 1 July 2020. This Parliament has supported Labor's efforts to protect penalty rates before.

Since that time the urgency for action has only grown. Australian workers have lost take home pay and wages have continued to stagnate­.

Yet, this Government continues to argue that up is down and that forwards is backwards.

They maintain the ludicrous and thoroughly debunked position that cutting penalty rates is somehow good for families and households.

We know that it is not. Australian workers know it is not.

And that's why we on this side of the chamber will not give up the fight.

Unlike those opposite, Labor is united and driven by a unity of purpose. We're determined to deliver for working people.

This is in stark contrast to the divided, unstable and illegitimate Coalition Government.

It seems that the only thing they are united on is cutting penalty rates and seeking to hand over billions upon billions of taxpayer dollars to foreign multinationals and the big banks if they're ever given a chance.

We will probably hear the same old arguments trotted out in opposition to this bill from the Morrison Government.

Yet more tired, unconvincing, and illogical arguments from the HR Nicholls society, recited verbatim without any critical thought.

No doubt we'll probably hear the argument about how penalty rates are somehow outdated and outmoded—that they're a thing of the past because we now live in a 24 hours a day, seven days a week economy and weekends are not special.

What that fails to acknowledge is that if we want a seven day a week, 24 hour economy, there's always workers making that happen.

And they deserve to be properly compensated for working on weekends and public holidays so that others - who do not have to - can enjoy their leisure time; they deserve to be properly compensated for being on shift as a nurse or a firefighter or police officer so that others can be safe.

We believe Australian workers deserve their penalty rates.

If you work unsociable hours away from your friends and lose the opportunity to have quality family time, we think you should be paid additional for this.

Fundamentally, this legislation about penalty rates goes to the heart of the national priorities of this parliament and to the values of the competing parties that seek to form government in this country.

Labor does not, never has and never will, support the arbitrary cutting of penalty rates.

Labor knows that for hard working Australians, cutting penalty rates means ripping money out of people's pay.

We think that is unacceptable.

The Liberals and the Nationals think it is commendable.

Time and time again we have heard members of this Chamber, and the other one, wax lyrical about why penalty rates should be cut.

They have spent years and years fighting for tax cuts for the top end of town and the big banks; we are continuing to fight to protect the take-home pay of Australian workers.

We will protect a principle as old as the Labor Party and the trade union movement: a fair day's pay for a fair day's work.

Senator URQUHART: I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.