Bill's Speeches

SPEECH - SUSPENSION OF STANDING ORDERS - HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, CANBERRA - THURSDAY, 2 MARCH 2017

*** CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY ***

I seek leave to move the following motion 

That the House:  

  1. Notes: 
  1. Unless this Parliament acts, the decision to cut the Sunday penalty rates of nearly 700,000 Australian workers will come into force as early as 1 July this year; 
  1. On Monday, the Labor Party sought to introduce legislation to stop this pay cut; 
  1. On Tuesday, the Prime Minister said he supported the decision to cut penalty rates; 
  1. The Prime Minister has been willing to legislate when he has objected to past decisions of Australian courts, tribunals and commissions including:
    1.                                           i.    Legislating to overturn a Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal decision;
    2.                                         ii.    Legislating to pre-empt a Fair Work Commission decision about the Country Fire Authority; and
    3.                                        iii.    Introducing legislation to overturn a decision of the Full Bench of the Federal Court about Native Title; 
  1. The Prime Minister has the power to stop these pay cuts for nearly 700,000 Australians; and
  2. Under the Turnbull Government, when companies receive record profits, they get a tax cut, and when wages flatline, workers get a pay cut;
  3. Calls on the Government to legislate to prevent the pay cut from going ahead; and 
  1. Agrees therefore, to suspend so much of standing orders as would prevent the Leader of the Opposition immediately introducing the Fair Work Amendment (Protecting Take Home Pay) Bill 2017, the bill being given priority over all business for passage through all stages without interruption, and if consideration of the bill has not concluded by 3.30pm today, any necessary questions to complete consideration of the bill being put without delay. 

This is the most out of touch government in Australian history. 

You couldn't write the plot. A conservative government, on one hand offering tax cuts for multinationals but on the other hand pay cuts for low-paid workers. 

A government who will fight tooth and nail, to give big banks a tax cut but do absolutely nothing to stop a pay cut for hundreds of thousands of workers. 

The motto of the Turnbull Government: tough on those who are doing it tough, and soft on the big end of town. 

This pay cut is not about a spreadsheet. It is not about a set of figures on a desk or in a table, it is not about simple economics. It is about the lives that people live.  

Today in Question Time, there were several individual stories which were put to the Prime Minister. Stories of people who will be affected by this pay cut from 1st July.  

What response did we get from this out of touch Prime Minister? 

"It is not my business, not my decision, not my problem".  

And of course, what they do instead is just attack the Labor Party.  

The problem they have got here is that this pay cut could not have come at a worse time for Australians.  

I acknowledge that the big end of town is doing well under the Turnbull Government. But what I don't accept is that when wages growth flatlines, that somehow cutting wages is an economic recipe for including all Australians in our prosperity. 

It is incredibly interesting that yesterday in the national accounts, which the Treasurer is so proud of, in the national accounts, corporate profits were shown to be the highest in 40 years. But what we see is that wages in this country have risen at the lowest level in 20 years. And yes, I do think that last fact is a shame. 

We see young people getting it in the neck again.  

This is a Government at war with young people.  

They want to: 

- increase their HECS

- make it more expensive to go to TAFE, with the loans system they have got  

What they then want to do is make it impossible for them to buy their first home by their trenchant defence of negative gearing in the future.

And now we have got a pay cut which will disproportionately fall on the young.  

No wonder young people are bemused at being given the ‘Gilmore gift’, because young people don't deserve the attacks they are getting from this Government.  

Then there is women - if we hear one more time from this Prime Minister that ‘women hold up half the sky’ and then he is not prepared to see them get half the pay, it shows what a rank hypocrite this man is.  

Then look at the regions - goodness me, what did the regions do to deserve Barnaby Joyce?  

The Leader of the National Party - the hostages to One Nation who couldn't learn how to fight with them. 

Now, what we have seen with some of the Coalition members of party, they say: ‘it is a minor matter, it's a marginal matter’.  

No, it is not a minor or marginal matter for most Australians.  

But what has been the defence we've seen from the Government?  

I have never seen so many startled wallabies in the headlights as this Government when this decision came down.  

What their first defence has been, is that through enterprise bargaining, unions have negotiated on behalf of members, flexibilities in return for increases in pay.  

What this Government wilfully chooses to do is confuse a pure pay cut with the process of enterprise bargaining in this country. 

And then we had the ghost of previous banquets, Senator Abetz make his contribution - the proposal of grandfathering. 

I noticed that the Prime Minister was saying today, almost in a parallel universe, he said: "But the commission says that there will be a transition so no-one will be worse off".  

No, Prime Minister, that is not correct. The decision means that on 1 July, there will be a reduction in penalty rates.  

The Prime Minister is trying to pretend and say there is nothing to see here. Then he gets onto his great friend, the independent umpire.  

This is a fellow who, when it suits him, trashed not only the decision of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal - he sacked the whole umpire.  

Last year, we saw the farcical images of the Prime Minister donning some CFA gear and said: "I am with you all the way" and then he came in and pre-empted a decision of the Fair Work Commission.  

They are happy to do it when it suits their political cause.  

I asked the Prime Minister: what political cause could you possibly be championing when you choose not to do it on behalf of 700,000 Australians?  

There will be a reduction. 

And as for Senator Abetz's proposition that we can grandfather everything, then anyone currently getting the penalty rates will be all right and anyone in the future, any new workers, will have to take their chances. What a mischievous idea.  

In industries like retail and hospitality, with a 50 per cent turnover in the year, what chance do people on the old rates stand for employment when an employer can pay someone to do the same job as they are doing on the new rates?  

What chance do the companies who choose to stick on the old rates have in competition, when the system will allow new companies to compete with them and pay their people less?  

The grandfathering is not the solution. Labor's solution is the only solution to protecting the take-home pay of Australian workers. 

But what amazes me most about this debate is when the Government says it is not our decision.  

What they have been trying to do is say because it is the umpire, they therefore don't have to cast an opinion on the merit or morality of the decision.  

When you become Prime Minister, your job is not to find somewhere to hide to avoid making a decision.  

People expect governments to intervene in the community when there are decisions made which are harming a lot of people.  

There is no government worth its salt in this country who could sit on their hands and do nothing to protect the conditions of 700,000 Australians.  

Then what we hear is that this is not his government's decision, it is someone else's decision.  

If it is not his government's decision, why was his government making submissions to these hearings?  

If it it is not this Government's decision, what will they do when the next hearing comes along? This Government cannot hide in the middle of the traffic, they cannot sit on the fence. 

The Prime Minister said he supports the decision.  

What he needs to do is reverse his position and no longer support this position. 

It is an out of touch Government, backing-in an out of touch proposition.  

The future of this country is not going to be found in a race to the bottom by cutting workers' conditions.  

The future of this country, and productivity, will not be found by reducing the pay of the lowest paid in this country.  

The future of this country will not be found in standing by and cutting the penalty rates of hard working workers. There is no compensation for them.  

Labor will fight this issue in the house.  

We will fight it when we go out after this place and we will fight it all the way to the next election.


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