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Monday, 3 June 2013
Page: 4731

Mr CIOBO (Moncrieff) (11:11): I am certainly pleased to rise to speak to this penalty rates motion because, in many respects, like most things that Labor does this penalty rates motion looks great in the headlines but the stark reality for Australian workers is very different.

On the Gold Coast, in my electorate—an electorate built off the backs of hospitality workers, of which there are around 500,000 across Australia—we know that Labor like to herald the fact that they claim their legislation is great for Aussie workers. We see the Prime Minister and we see Bill Shorten consistently saying that they are all about Australian workers. In my city, Australia's sixth-largest city—a city where the single biggest employer is the tourism industry—the simple reality is that Labor's so-called penalty rates reforms have driven unemployment up.

Take, for example, a sandwich bar just down the road from my electorate office, which used to be open six days a week. With Labor's reforms, and as they introduced the penalty rates which were great for Aussie workers according to the Labor Party, the situation arose with that particular sandwich bar, which had three mothers working as part of the team employed by the sandwich bar owner, that for the store to remain open six days a week—Tuesday through Sunday—was no longer feasible. Because of the rates that had to be paid on a Sunday, the decision was made that it was actually better for the sandwich bar to be closed on Sundays than it was to be open. As the proprietor said to me: 'Why would I open to lose money? It actually makes more sense for me to enjoy a two-day weekend, rather than the one-day weekend I have had for the past four or five years.'

The consequence is that the workers in that particular small business, the people whom Labor claims they are going to help, ended up in net terms receiving less pay because they had fewer hours to work every week. And the amenity of the local area was reduced because there was one less small business available for people to frequent on the weekend. In a tourism town, it could not be more right or necessary for there to be flexibility when it comes to servicing the needs of today's tourists and, importantly, today's employers and employees.

The reality is that in a city like the Gold Coast there is a lot of demand for people to have flexibility. Some people do not want to work standard business hours because that is actually not consistent with what they need for their families. There are a lot of people who like the fact that they can get flexible work hours which enable them to work out of the home at a time when their partner is in the home, so that when one finishes work, the other can go to work. That is exactly the practice that we wanted to put in place. The overall test is always: is the employee better off? Now, Labor is great at headlines, and it is great at saying, 'This is about extra pay to recognise the fact that people are not with their families.' But in doing so they ignore the simple fact that for many families this is a positive choice that Labor denies them.

On public holidays on the Gold Coast, people now pay an extra 10, 15 or 20 per cent on the cost of going to a cafe or a restaurant or some other tourist operation—if it is even open. If you walk up and down the so-called glitter strip these days, chances are there are more places closed on public holidays than there are open. That is the great reform that the Labor Party has driven. This is not just for tourists but also for the community. We have seen, for example, many pharmacies which used to be open seven days a week now closed on weekends or on Sundays as a direct consequence of Labor's reform. Again, the straight-up-and-down translation: fewer services—some would argue, essential community services—and fewer work hours for the so-called workers that Labor is so concerned about. This is nothing more than a headline motion that disregards the fact that there are many positives that flow from increased labour flexibility.

The coalition is not about Work Choices; to quote the Leader of the Opposition: 'That is dead, buried and cremated.' And Labor member after Labor member can get up and run its pathetic scare campaign, but all Australians see right through that pathetic scare campaign. They know that the only puppet controlling the strings when it comes to that side of the House is Australia's trade union movement—and Labor's attempt to keep it a lockdown is part of the their desire to maintain power. (Time expired)