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Tuesday, 26 June 2018
Page: 6387


Dr FREELANDER (Macarthur) (15:38): There's no doubt about this government. It always wants its pound of flesh, but it takes it from the poorest. I rise today to speak about the priorities of this government and its unfair cuts to child care and its unfair cuts to penalty rates—because it's all about fairness. I have strong views on both these topics, but I'll start first with the cuts to penalty rates. It's simply incomprehensible that the government would even fathom allowing the penalty rates of the hardest working and most disadvantaged Australians to be ripped away. In my electorate of Macarthur, over 8,000 residents work in retail and an additional 5,000 work in the accommodation and food services industries. Collectively, this equates to about 20 per cent of workers from my community who are facing real attacks on their standard of living by Malcolm Turnbull and his government. I will not allow the government to continue on this trajectory without a fight.

This is a fight that affects the poorest in my community. It affects people who are trying and struggling to make ends meet in an environment where housing, power prices and transport are increasingly unaffordable. And yet this government is content to allow money to be ripped away from those most disadvantaged. Over Australia, almost five million hardworking, everyday people rely on penalty rates to help make ends meet. On a backbencher politician's salary of over $200,000, some of those opposite might not understand what that means. But, for many in my community, getting fairly paid with penalty rates can mean the difference between being able to put a roof over their heads and putting food on the table. Maybe those opposite should understand that. These are cuts to the most hardworking, disadvantaged, shift-working people in my community. Those opposite may not understand that, but this is a real cut to people's standard of living at a time when they're giving thousands of dollars in tax cuts to those earning large amounts of money. It is patently unfair.

Workers like police officers, firefighters, paramedics, nurses, retail workers and hospitality workers and workers in manufacturing, tourism and many other sectors all rely on penalty rates to make ends meet. Yet, under the leadership of this Prime Minister, penalty rates for hospitality, fast-food industries, retail and pharmacy will be cut again on Sunday, 1 July. I see that as a tragedy. I see it as an attack on the most disadvantaged workers in my community, often workers with young families, who are trying to make ends meet, trying to put a roof over their heads and food on the table. It's dreadful. I wonder if those opposite have ever had to rely on penalty rates.

Mr Laundy: Yes, 100 per cent.

Dr FREELANDER: You're kidding me—you had to rely on penalty rates?

Mr Laundy: It's called my university career. I relied on them for years.

Dr FREELANDER: Come on! I dare say we wouldn't be in this position if you really had to rely on penalty rates. Under this national government, we've seen wage growth at a record low, and yet this out-of-touch Prime Minister and his ministers are allowing this to happen. This is a joke! On the second topic of child care—

Mr Dick: You want to rip it away from everyone else!

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Hogan ): The member for Oxley.

Dr FREELANDER: In addition to the government's agenda of cuts to marine parks, changes to the HELP scheme and axing of the pensioners' energy supplement, it is now cutting child care, again, for the most disadvantaged. As I've mentioned before, this is an issue of fairness; it's an issue that the government should be facing, but it can't. We know that the government's childcare changes will leave one in four families worse off, including the most disadvantaged. I could talk for hours about this, as a paediatrician, and how important it is that the most disadvantaged children in our community not miss out because of this government's policies. These are the consequences of the government's inability to look at fairness in our community, and it's a shame. (Time expired)