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2017-03-24

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Turnbull comes out of the long grass on penalty rates

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who until this week has been avoiding giving explicit support for the Fair Work Commission’s recent decision to cut penalty rates for thousands of award employees, has now come out of the long grass on the issue. 

Turnbull, in responding to questions about the cuts stated, “Well we do support it … and I’ve been very clear about that …” 

“The Fair Work Commission decided to back small business and we back small business.” 

So much for the government’s claim it was simply supporting the industrial “umpire’s” decision. 

Labor this week, with the support of the Greens, introduced a private Bill to try and stop the changes from going ahead and to protect the hundreds of thousands of people who depend heavily on penalty rates for their day-to-day living. 

Opposition leader, Bill Shorten, told the lower house that “it was an absolute travesty that from July 1, a millionaire will get a $17,000 tax cut but a retail worker will get a $77 a week pay cut.” 

“That kind of money pays for a tank of petrol, new school shoes or a trip to the doctor for many families,” Shorten said. “This parliament has never had a more straightforward choice than it does today.” 

Research by The Australia Institute’s Centre for Future Work has warned that at current rates of wage growth, it would take 17 years for the base rate of affected employees to fully offset the effect of the penalty rate cuts. 

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