Penalty Rates and Fair Pay Select Committee: penalty rates and fair pay

Mr J. BULL (Sunbury) (10:27:05) — I wish to take the opportunity this morning to discuss the report by the Penalty Rates and Fair Pay Select Committee on its inquiry into penalty rates and fair pay, which was tabled in this place in July 2018. Before I discuss the contents of the report I would like to take the opportunity to thank the committee staff, Robert, Paul and Sarah, for their hard work and diligence in assisting the committee with its important work and making the report possible. I would like to also take the opportunity to thank those witnesses who offered submissions on this very important topic of penalty rates, along with the committee chair, who is in the chamber — the member for Dandenong — who did a terrific job in bringing the report to the Parliament and in working with all members, those being the deputy chair, the member for Box Hill, me and the members for Pascoe Vale, St Albans, Prahran and Ringwood.

The committee considered a range of mechanisms within changes to penalty rates: the immediate impact of penalty rate changes; the impact on employees’ wages and consumer spending; the impact on women and single parents, young workers and rural and regional Victorians; the impact on employers in relation to job creation, additional hours for staff and difficulties in attracting staff; and impacts that are of particular importance in rural and regional Victoria. The committee also looked at the broader economic impacts around wage growth, employment, inequality and gender pay equity, and it looked at the consumption and flow-on effects of those, such as the casualisation of the workforce and demand on welfare services. In chapter 5 we looked at safeguards and potential legislative changes around the Fair Work Act 2009, improved enforcement, increased penalties, education — which was something that we touched on through the recommendations — and of course those Victorian government initiatives on ways that these penalty rates can be improved and protected.

During the inquiry what became clear was that the reduction in penalty rates is already having a significant and detrimental impact on thousands of workers in the affected industries. Whether they be women, young people or employees in rural and regional parts of the state, what we know is that these workers, many of whom are the lowest paid in our state, are feeling cost-of-living pressures and a whole range of pressures that impact their lives each and every day. We saw that the penalty rate cuts that will be implemented in the coming years will only see these problems magnified. The committee heard from a range of witnesses and learned that the gender pay gap may also encourage workers to move into insecure work, which is highly concerning. These cuts will reduce the amount of disposable income available for these workers, which is something that is of great concern.

There are 11 findings and nine recommendations in the report. Although the committee functioned well both in hearings and in deliberations, it was incredibly disheartening and very disappointing to note that the member for Box Hill and the member for Ringwood tabled a minority report on this matter, labelling the inquiry a ‘blatant misuse of public funds’. It just goes to show that those opposite have little or no care for those who work so very hard and rely on penalty rates each and every day. These workers who need penalty rates to survive use them to pay rent, to pay bills and to support their families. These are the workers that are most impacted by these cuts.

This is why this inquiry was incredibly important and why the Andrews Labor government wanted to conduct the inquiry and hear from those who are impacted by the cuts. These workers will suffer from having less take-home pay each and every week. The Andrews Labor government will today and every other day stand with and stand up for those workers who need to be supported, who rely on penalty rates, and I am incredibly proud to stand with them and ensure that their rights are protected.