Cutting penalty rates not fair, smart or right

Published on Mon 19 June 2017 4:06pm

Mr Wilson (4:06pm) — There is no social or economic argument for cutting penalty rates and for taking money out of the pockets of workers who tend to be part time and low paid, workers who are more often young and more often women.

There is no justification for cutting pay that rightly compensates people who undertake work during unsociable hours. And it is important to remember that penalty rates are an incentive or a reward that goes some way to ensuring that unsociable work is not lumped as an additional form of social exclusion on those who are already marginal or disempowered.

I represent a community that depends on and values a strong tourism and entertainment economy. This sector flourishes on the weekends and on holidays, and there is simply no case for saying that cutting penalty rates will address an existing problem, deliver more services or lead to more jobs. The truth is that penalty rates should be recognised and protected as part of a broader social compact.

There is an opportunity here for the government to stand up and protect some of the lowest paid workers from having their wages cut and from having their lives made meaner and more fragile. Cutting penalty rates is not fair and it is not right. It is not smart at a time when flat and low wages are contributing to a general economic malaise in this country. Governments are judged on both action and inaction, and the Turnbull government must act to protect penalty rates or else wear the responsibility for having punished those who already struggle with job insecurity and low wages.

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