Penalty Rates

Monday, 10 October 2016

Mr HAWKE (Mitchell—Assistant Minister to the Treasurer) (18:20): The member for Lilley was right when he said that this debate is emblematic of many of the differences between the ALP and the Liberal Party in today's political environment. But he is right not for the reason that he suggested; he, of course, is pointing to the fact that the Labor Party of today is wholly captive to the Australian union movement and ignorant of the realities of the modern workplace and the realities of big business versus small business in this country.

This debate is actually about small business versus big business. What we see in today's world is that the representatives of the union movement and the union movement in this country are like the multinational corporations that operate in the private sector. Unions are big businesses today in the industrial relations space. Just like multinationals, the big businesses—the union movement—trade away the conditions under awards for their workers, with the full cognisance and agreement of the Australian Labor Party and the former union heads, at the expense of small business.

This debate today is about ensuring that we have a fair industrial umpire who is able to consider arguments from those who are unable to form unions—that is, every single worker in a small or medium business, which are most of the employers and most of the employment in this country. They are unable to join a union, and those who do not join a union, do not have their case represented at Fair Work Australia. Instead, what we see are unions representing cases at Fair Work Australia that they do not take to their workers themselves.

If any one of these members—the member for Bendigo, the member for Lilley or the member who just spoke—went out and examined the actual state of awards at the moment in this country, they would find things like this. They would find that a McDonald's has to pay a lower rate of penalty rate than a cafe, a small business, that exists across the road. That is what they would find in many different awards, depending on what award has to be paid for a penalty rate. They will find that a small business has to pay its workers more than a multinational corporation. Who over there wants to stand up and defend that? Who wants to stand up and defend them?

Where in this motion that the member for Bendigo moved today does it say 'a condemnation of the SDA'? Where is the condemnation of the SDA who traded away penalty rates in South Australia, was found to be unfair and did not pass the test that was required? The SDA operated just like a multinational and traded away the penalty rates of workers in South Australia in the retail sector. That is what they felt was fair. They were able, because of their size, their scale and their member base, to negotiate with the large retailers at the expense of small retailers. So it was the small retailers who suffered the most in South Australia. The union movement, of course, does not care and does not get the point.

In every argument that we hear from the Labor Party today, they are trying to say that this is about creating a class of working poor. In one sense, they are right. The new class of working poor in this country are the small businessman and businesswoman in this country running their own small business, who working longer and longer hours to pay their taxes in this country, so that they can put more people on in their small business. They are working longer and longer hours at their own expense, at their families' expense and at their time's expense, so that they can operate their small family business, because of the regulatory burdens that successive Labor governments put on them and because of the onerous industrial relations requirements that are on them. The small businesses that provide most of the employment in this country are the new class of working poor. If the Labor Party was referring to them here, we would accept it.

Here we are in this debate again post the election talking about the same things. It is the unions. The only people cutting deals in this country to reduce penalty rates are the union movement. The only people in this country doing deals to reduce penalty rates are the union movement. So when we have cases put to Fair Work Australia and finally hear an independent umpire set up by the Labor Party to arbitrate the case for small business and employees about what rates of pay and penalty rates would be fair on Saturdays and Sundays—they are cases arbitrated by the independent umpire, which was set up and put in place by the Leader of the Opposition—we see that Labor will not accept the independent umpire's decision, which is really to the benefit of small business, predominantly.

It is the big unions cutting deals with big multinationals that are reducing penalty rates in this country. Yet small businesses are supposed to now suffer because the Labor Party will not accept in any way, no matter what they rule, the independent arbitration of Fair Work Australia—the saviour of the modern industrial relations system set up by the Leader of the Opposition and by the Labor Party. They will not accept the outcome of the independent umpire.

We know what is going on here with these kinds of motions. It shows that Labor simply does not get the modern economy. They have no interest in a fair and equitable association between employee and employer. They are wholly captive to the modern union movement and they are unable to deshackle themselves from the unions and be independent. (Time expired)