Speech - Private Members Buisness (Penalty Rates)







Thank you Mr Deputy Speaker,

It certainly is a fight we're going to have, a fight for working Australian's whose working conditions and basic pay levels are under attack from this government and plenty of their acalides in the business community every day of the week. So we relish the opportunity to talk about penalty rates, we understand how important penalty rates are not just for the 4.5 million Australians who receive them but they're also important for our economy.

What we get from the apologists opposite from the trickle-down brigade, who go to the people of Australia at the last election with this spectacular proposal of a 50 billion dollar tax cut for the wealthiest companies in the world including a tax cut for the big banks of 7 billion dollars as if that is going to produce jobs and growth just demonstrates how out-of-touch they are. Because there is one thing that the last election did, it demonstrated that the Australian community won't by your trickle-down economics.
They're hardly sick of it. In fact, around the world organisations such as the International Monetary Fund and many other reputable authorities have pointed to the trickle-down program and not only being the source of lower economic growth but also the source of polarisation right around the world.

And exhibit A here is the economy of the United States, where the wages of the middle class have been ripped to shreds in recent years and greater armies of working poor have been created on the back of a minimum wage of 7 or 8 dollars an hour. So those opposite come in to this house and argue that we should take down our minimum wage, we should erode the pay and conditions of some of the poorest people in our community by ripping into their penalty rates.

Well I can tell you this, we relish this debate, we want to have this debate with this government no matter how long it lasts. Because we know if we go to the people particularly on the question that the Member for Bowman went on about before, we will thump you out of your seat because even in your seat there are middle-class families that benefit from penalty rates. You somehow think that penalty rates are just about a few young workers that you don't mind exploiting. Penalty rates built the wage of middle-class families in our community.

Kids who are going to university, second income earners who are reliant upon a few extra hours a week, you erode the middle class in this country at your peril. And they know what you're up to now because they can see it in penalty rates as being the leading edge of the reintroduction of WorkChoices in this country - an attack not just on penalty rates but an attack on minimum conditions right across our workforce. They will not cop it. When you offer such an obscene program as you took at the last election, a 50 billion dollar cut for large corporates, nothing, nothing really for small business and certainly nothing for people on modest incomes. When you attack the conditions of 4.5 million Australians you have a fundamental impact on confidence and the economy and you have a fundamental impact on growth in the economy.

A middle-class is not a consequence of strong growth, it is the force behind strong growth in an economy. Well paid workers such as we've had in this country in the main for the last 30 years have been a source of the fact that our economy is 20% larger than it was in 2007; they've been a source of growth.

But in other countries, which have gone down the trickle-down road like they have in the United States with huge armies of working poor. Right across Europe where they don't pay people properly and they don't respect people properly then their economies are not doing well. 

The work force does deserve some respect and at the moment in relation to the Commonwealth public servants, their role in the public sector in our economy, you have no respect for your own work force. You're out there ripping into their working conditions, trying to give them a real wage decrease and somehow pretend that's good for the economy. It's not good for the economy. But I'll tell you what, it's not good for trust and trust is really the very basic secret ingredient that makes good economies work. So when you show so much disrespect to your own workforce when you've got a record of putting in place WorkChoices - the Australian public know what you're really on about.

Don't come in here and preach about small business. Small business depends upon the purchasing power of the low and middle paid in our community if they're going to do any business. And don't go on about coffee shops, who is going to buy the coffee if you continue to erode the wages and working conditions of the people.