House debates

Monday, 3 June 2013

Private Members' Business

Penalty Rates

11:06 am

Photo of Alan GriffinAlan Griffin (Bruce, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I rise in support of the motion by the member for La Trobe and note the importance of penalty rates to ensure that many of the poorest workers in our society are able to make a living. We know the significance of penalty rates for part-time workers, students and young people trying to get a start in life. We know that those penalty rates are about compensating people for working at times that are outside the norm. It is fair to say that the norm, for some industries, has changed dramatically over the years, but if you expect people to work at night, on weekends and on public holidays there is a penalty you pay in terms of your living standards, the time you have to enjoy leisure activities and the time you have with your family. This is something that needs to be taken into account.

I have noted from this present debate, and the one in October last year when this motion was first debated, that the view from the other side is very much of two or three clear points. There is the question of flexibility and the need for flexibility from a business point of view to ensure that jobs can be created, workers can be employed and businesses can make a profit. Obviously, that is an important consideration—if there are no jobs there will be no workers. It is a very simple point. The point also is not what it says but what it hides—what it really means and has meant under those opposite.

The opposition leader is of the view 'You cannot believe what I say unless I write it down', and we found out last week you cannot even believe it then. When we go to some of the things that he has written down on workplace reform, we know that his record is very different to his rhetoric today and to the policy that the coalition is taking forth to the next election. We know that under Work Choices—and they now say that is not what they are about—that is not what happened.

We need to go back to Work Choices to understand what the Liberal Party has done. We saw agreement after agreement that was against the workers' needs and established conditions. One hundred per cent of AWAs cut at least one so-called protected award condition: 64 per cent cut annual leave loading, 63 per cent cut penalty rates, 52 per cent cut the shift-work loadings, 51 per cent cut overtime loadings, 48 per cent cut monetary allowances, 46 per cent cut public holiday pay, 40 per cent cut rest breaks, 36 per cent cut declared public holidays and 22 per cent provided employees with no pay rise, some for up to five years.

The Australian public needs to understand that that is the record of the coalition, and as much as they may try to move away from it, as much as they may say, 'That's not what we are about now,' that is, in fact, what they have been about, and when they had control of both houses of parliament that is what they did.

In terms of the walking away from it: let us go to the very words of the opposition leader with respect to this. In 2008 the opposition leader said about Work Choices:

… it was good for wages, it was good for jobs and it was good for workers. And let’s never forget that.

In 2009 he said that workplace reform was one of the greatest achievements of the Howard government. And in his book, Battlelines, in writing his policy manifesto Tony Abbott, 'Work Choices wasn't all bad'.

The fact is that quite a bit of it was. One of the interesting points is the difficulty we have on the other side to get speakers even to address these issues. I note the member for Farrer, who spoke previously—this is her second contribution to this debate. The member for McPherson spoke twice in October. They are not even interested in debating the issues; they are not prepared to. That is what is wrong with this motion when it comes to the— (Time expired)


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