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

Mr J. BULL (Sunbury) (10:09:13) — I would like to take the opportunity this morning to discuss once again 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. In my previous contribution I had the opportunity to thank those committee members who of course served on the committee, the staff and all those who took the time to present to the committee, both in the form of written submissions and in person.

The committee considered a range of factors that relate to penalty rates, including the immediate impact of penalty rate changes, the impact on employees’ wages and consumer spending and the impact on women and single parents, young workers and rural and regional Victorians across the state. The committee looked at the impact on employers in relation to job creation, additional hours for staff and difficulties in attracting staff and in particular the impact on those in rural and regional Victoria. We went further to consider the broader economic impacts around wage growth, employment, inequality and gender pay equity and looked at the consumption and flow-on effects of those, such as the casualisation of the workforce and the demand on welfare services.

There are in fact 11 findings and nine recommendations contained in the report. As I mentioned in my previous contribution on this report, the members for Box Hill and Ringwood tabled a minority report on this matter. It is certainly my view that the committee functioned well through both hearings and deliberations, so it was incredibly disheartening and disappointing to note that those opposite tabled a minority report on this matter labelling the inquiry a blatant misuse of public funds. From submissions and witnesses it was clear that a reduction in penalty rates is already having a significant and detrimental impact on thousands of workers in affected industries. This was completely disregarded by those opposite through their minority report. 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 Victoria, are feeling significant cost-of-living pressures. Through the minority report process those opposite once again failed to acknowledge this, and that was incredibly disheartening and disappointing.

The committee heard evidence from a range of witnesses and learned that the gender pay gap may also encourage workers to move into insecure work, something that was certainly highly concerning to me and to other committee members. These cuts will reduce the amount of disposable income available to workers, which is something that is of great concern. These funds, or extra take-home pay if you like, are used for so many different things in a person’s life, whether that be to pay the gas bill, to make rent payments, to pay the mortgage, to pay school fees or to pay sports fees. These are really important funds for individuals, and what the committee could see and what the committee learned is that the cuts have significant impacts, particularly for those in rural and regional Victoria. These are people that work extremely hard to provide for their families, that do their very best each and every week, and unfortunately what we see as a result of these cuts is a loss of take-home income each and every week.

It is incredibly disappointing that those opposite will place ideology above reality, and it proves that when it comes to our most vulnerable and our most hardworking, those opposite are unfortunately disinterested. If those opposite genuinely cared, they would not have tabled a minority report on this matter. They would have supported our recommendations; it is as simple as that. If those opposite wanted to show those Victorians who are working hard how much they care, then they would not have tabled the minority report. The Andrews Labor government will stand up for those who need it. We will not stand for profits over people.