BILLS; Fair Work Amendment (Restoring Penalty Rates) Bill 2018; Second Reading

September 10, 2018

Mr HAYES (FowlerChief Opposition Whip) (11:02): I join with many members on this side of the House in lending support to the Fair Work Amendment (Restoring Penalty Rates) Bill 2018. We know that this out-of-touch government just does not understand the crucial role that penalty rates play in assisting families with their everyday lives. Families are under cost pressures, and the cutting of penalty rates affects their ability to pay bills, put food on the table and meet mortgage repayments. For many families in my electorate of Fowler, in south-west Sydney, penalty rates are crucial. They are the reason they give up quality family time, to which there is a penalty attached. The reason so many Australians sacrifice weekends is that penalty rates are not simply that little bit extra; they make a real and significant difference to the lives of many.

Labor will continue to fight to support penalty rates and, indeed, to support all working Australians. Unfortunately, this government has repeatedly demonstrated a total lack of regard for battling working-class families. This government shows no understanding of the daily household pressures—rising health costs and rising cost of living in general—that families are faced with at a time when we have stagnant wage growth. This is a government that engages in policies to advance wage stagnation, restricting the growth of workers' wages while starving the economy of spending and, more importantly, starving the economy of confidence.

On the question of wage growth, it must be quite embarrassing for those opposite that the government's then Treasury secretary, John Fraser, stated this:

There are a number of structural trends that are undermining our capacity to raise the revenue that we have come to expect from a growing economy.

One such trend is a shift in the composition of growth away from wages and towards corporate profits.

Yet this is the mob that wants to give an $80 million lift to the big end of town. Despite the evidence, the government has persisted with its misplaced policies. It also created the vacuum allowing the Fair Work Commission to cut penalty rates. The government gave no incentive not to do that, and it did not join with Labor in opposing it. As a matter of fact, the government did not take any of the eight opportunities to join with Labor to oppose the cutting of penalty rates.

This is a cut of up to $77 a week for the lowest paid workers—people in retail, people working in accommodation and people working in hospitality. In my electorate of Fowler, this represents almost 10,500 people—the last census showed—that work in accommodation, hospitality or retail. They are low-paid workers. Mine's not a rich area. There are many things to be particularly proud of in my area, including being the most multicultural community in the country, but it's not a rich area, and $77 a week means a hell of a lot to those families that are struggling as it is. People might want to say they are aspirational. I think they do want to deliver better lives for themselves and their families. They work very hard to do that. This government has shown no inclination to support them. It's certainly shown more than an inclination to support the top end of town. If you're one of the four banks, all those caught up in the royal commission at the moment for nefarious activities involving normal people, you'll get a big tax break too. But the government attempted to buy these people off with a $10 a week tax cut, and yet they will lose $77 a week by losing their penalty rates.

This is a government that is hopelessly out of touch. This is a government that does not understand what it is that working families need to do to put food on the table, to make a difference in the lives of workers and their families. The government doesn't know what it needs to do to assist these families in the long run. We've seen what the government wants to do in terms of education. We've seen what it wants to do about health. Now we see what it wants to do about moving the parameters towards big business and not working families. This is just another example that this government is out of touch. (Time expired)