WEDNESDAY, 28 JUNE 2017
SUBJECT/S: Labor’s pledge to protect penalty rates; Liberal Party division.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everyone and welcome to Glover's Pharmacy. Brendan and I have just had a great conversation with David Glover who is making it very clear that he is not going to sign up to cutting people's penalty rates.
He impressively explained to me it's part of having a social conscience. He also made the point that in big cities like Sydney with power prices going up and the cost to housing going up, this is the last possible time that we need to be cutting people's pay rates.
Of course, also people should always remember that the people who earn penalty rates by and large spend every dollar they get paid, so when you cut penalty rates, you cut the amount of money in the economy, people have less to spend, and that actually damages business confidence and doesn't help small businesses in the long run.
So, in three days time, Malcolm Turnbull will be giving a tax cut to millionaires, but in four days time, Malcolm Turnbull is supporting a cut to the penalty rates of 700,000 Australians.
I will reverse this. I pledge, if elected as Prime Minister, that I will reverse the cuts to penalty rates and I will reverse the tax cuts for millionaires. If Labor gets elected at the next election, we will restore the Sunday penalty rates of every Australian. We will not go ahead with the tax cuts for millionaires, but of course it doesn't need an election to sort this out. I will work with Malcolm Turnbull to stop the penalty rate cuts when Parliament resumes. I just ask Malcolm Turnbull to put the people first and not the top end of town.
I might get Brendan to say a few words and then we're happy to take questions.
BRENDAN O’CONNOR, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT AND WORKPLACE RELATIONS: Thanks very much, Bill, and it is great to be here at this workplace, at this fantastic business, where the employer has decided not to pass on those cuts. Now, if the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull had the same attitude as David Glover, we would see 700,000 workers who about to lose their penalty rates and certainly cuts to their real income be saved from that injustice.
In the Parliament, Bill Shorten introduced a Private Member's Bill. We've had a Private Member's Bill pass the Senate to stop the cuts to penalty rates that take effect in a few days time. If Malcolm Turnbull, instead of fighting for his own job, squabbling over jobs in the government, concerned himself for those workers with prices going up, wages falling in real terms, then we would see some remedy, some relief and some justice for those low-paid workers.
And I want to say this, too. This is not the end of the matter. There are other awards covering other employees. Right now we have pharmacy workers, retail and hospitality, fast food workers, but we are also going to see others, people working in clubs, hairdressers and beauticians and indeed there will be more awards that will be made - where they will be seeking application to cut real income from workers who are doing it tough, and don't deserve this.
So, we say to the government, stop fighting amongst yourself. I mean, Malcolm Turnbull is a very weak leader. He can't stop the squabbling that is occurring publicly, but he could, if he cared, join Labor and stop the cuts to penalty rates so that these people can cope with the cost of living pressures in a more effective way. If he fails to do that, and as Bill has outlined, a Shorten Labor Government will indeed remedy this matter by ensuring we restore the rate as of 30 June 2017.
SHORTEN: Thanks, Brendan. Are there any questions?
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, business groups have criticised your pledge to restore penalty rates. Isn't it going to undermine confidence in the independent umpire?
SHORTEN: Not at all, essentially we support having an independent umpire but in this case they just got the decision wrong and ultimately, the independent umpire, the biggest independent umpire in Australia is the Australian electorate. We are happy to submit our views to the Australian electorate. People can decide, do they want penalty rates cut or not? But I am determined that if elected I will reverse the cuts to penalty rates and I will reverse the tax cuts for millionaires. I'm on the side of working people, Mr Turnbull is on the side of millionaires.
JOURNALIST: Isn't it just going to add more uncertainty to the industrial relations framework, though?
SHORTEN: We are giving fair notice, we think this is the wrong decision. I make no apology for being on the side of the workers, that's what I've been my whole life. If it comes down to a choice between giving millionaires a tax cut or stopping penalty rate cuts, I'm for the workers and we're going to reverse the cuts to penalty rates.
And in terms of the general economy, Australian workers haven't had wage rises in years. This is the worst possible time to be cutting people's pay. The people who most depend upon penalty rates are the people generally, who earn the least in Australian society. I'm gravely concerned of deepening inequality in this country. I'm gravely concerned that in Turnbull's Australia the rich get richer, the poor get poorer and the middle class are just getting squeezed.
JOURNALIST: Has Labor assessed the costs to Australian businesses of reversing penalty rates?
SHORTEN: I've assessed the cost to Australian workers. Over the next four years if you are a mum working in retail on the Sunday’s you will get four successive penalty rates cuts, which by the end of it will cost you $77 for an eight hour shift on Sunday. People on $30,000 and $40,000 and $50,000 a year, they are not doing it comfortably now. Every fortnight they get the bills, every fortnight they keep delaying, until they get the red notices, we've got energy, electricity and gas prices going up.
Every time Malcolm Turnbull says he has fixed electricity prices, electricity prices go up. That's why I'm fighting for everyday Australians. We don't want penalty rates cut, Malcolm Turnbull can stop that and if he won't I will, after the next election if I get to form a government in this country.
JOURNALIST: But what about the businesses that actually have to pay more?
SHORTEN: Pay more penalty rates?
JOURNALIST: Pay more to their staff. I mean, we've had business groups say they could have more staff on.
SHORTEN: We just want businesses to take a leaf out of David Glover's book. We just want them to pay them the same on July 2 that they paid before July 2.
This country can't afford to make workers pay more income tax, which is what Mr Turnbull wants to do by increasing the Medicare levy. This country and workers cannot afford to lose their penalty rate cuts. Mr Turnbull has no plan to tackle rising electricity and gas prices. He has got no plan to help young Australians get their first home.
There are very simple choices emerging in Australia. You can either back working and middle-class Australians or you can back the top end of town. You can either oppose the cuts to penalty rates or you can give tax cuts to people who earn a million dollars. This is the worst possible time to give Australian families and Australian workers a penalty rates cut, when they haven't had a wage rise for years.
JOURNALIST: Since Malcolm Turnbull took over as Prime Minister have you or anyone in your office received information from Tony Abbott or anyone connected to him which maybe you've used against the Prime Minister?
SHORTEN: I've seen what Derryn Hinch has said, that's just completely wrong. To be honest, it is not exactly a secret is it, that the Liberal Party is at war with itself. You can't open newspaper, you can't turn on a television without the Liberals bagging each other. I'm not interested in whether or not Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott and Peter Dutton and Christopher Pyne are all fighting each other. I'm not interested in Malcolm Turnbull's internal war. I'm interested instead, for fighting to stop the cuts to penalty rates. The Liberals can fight each other as much as they want, I'm going to fight for the working people of this country because that's what I'm paid to do, it's what I believe in.
JOURNALIST: Are you categorically denying though that your office or that anyone in your office has received information?
SHORTEN: Yes, yes, I really am. And let's be honest, the Liberal Party civil war is not exactly a secret is it. I think Australians though are bored with the Liberal Party fighting each other. Malcolm Turnbull, Tony Abbott, Peter Dutton, you know whoever is in charge of the Liberal Party, I don't care two hoots about it.
What I do care about is that on July 2, 700,000 Australians are having the penalty rates in their awards cut. I do care that we have one of the most out of touch Prime Minister’s in Australian history who somehow thinks it is a good idea that people earning a million dollars will get a $16,500 tax cut, but people on minimum wages get a penalty rates cut on Sundays. It is just not fair, is it.
JOURNALIST: There already are big corporations who don't pay their workers weekend and Sunday penalty rates. What's the difference between – I mean is this going to open up keeping Sunday penalty rates and more companies and businesses going to head down that direction and follow the lead of big corporations?
SHORTEN: Well, let's be clear, there is a big difference between a group of workers collectively negotiating an increase in their base rate of pay. This is not what has happened though on this coming Sunday. This is an arbitrary pay cut. The people who work in fast food and pharmacy, who are having their award penalty rates cut, they're not getting extra money for the rest of the week. There has been no negotiation. This is an arbitrary pay cut. It’s a unilateral pay cut for people who can't afford a unilateral pay cut. I make no apology for standing up for the workers. That's the side I'm on. That's the side I've always been on, that's the side I'm always going to stand up for.
I get that Turnbull wants to give millionaires a tax cut because he thinks somehow, miraculously the benefits of that will trickle down to hundreds of thousands and millions of other people, trickle-down economics doesn't work.
When you give tax cuts to the top end of town, the top end of town put it in their bank account. But when you cut penalty rates for working people, that just means that there is less money in the economy, it means families are doing it harder at a time when electricity and gas prices are just out of control.
JOURNALIST: Isn't it the same principle, Mr Shorten, though that cutting rates that employers pay their workers hopefully means they will hire more staff, isn't that the same principle as cutting tax rates for millionaires hoping that then there will be a trickle-on effect. What's the difference in that argument?
SHORTEN: A crocodile wouldn't swallow the idea that if you cut the penalty rates of people that there's going to be a miraculous jobs boom. What will happen is that workers who have their pay cut, will just have their pay cut. Nothing else is going to happen.
And this country cannot afford to give corporate tax cuts to multinationals when we've got to properly fund our Medicare system, when we've got to properly fund our schools.
There's two basic arguments up for grabs in Australia at the moment. The Liberal Party, the party of millionaires and big business; they say if you look after the very wealthy, then the very wealthy will look after everybody else. I don't buy that. I have a different view of the world. When you look after working class and middle-class Australians, when they have got enough money in their pockets to be able to afford a mortgage, to be able to pay the bills, to educate their kids, that's when this country is humming.
I am interested in greater equality, not greater inequality. I'm on the side of middle and working class people because that is actually what makes this country the fantastic country that we should be.
JOURNALIST: Do you feel like the internal divisions of the Liberal Party on full display at the moment - do you feel like the luckiest man in Australian politics?
SHORTEN: I wish the Liberals would get that are act together, actually. I actually think that this is a turn off for Australians. I think Australians think politicians are out of touch when they fight each other.
Can I just say to Australians that really at the end of the day, whether or not Malcolm Turnbull is at war with Tony Abbott or Peter Dutton, I don't care.
I am interested in reversing penalty rate cuts, I am not interested in giving millionaires tax cuts. I am far more concerned about rising electricity and gas prices, I am more concerned when a young couple can't buy their first home than I am worried about the internal rubbish in the circus that the Liberal Party is becoming.
Thanks everybody. I'll see you all a bit later.