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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2016 Week 1 Hansard (11 February) . .

Page.. 265..


Justice and Community Safety Directorate (Attorney-General and Police and Emergency Services portfolios), dated February 2016.

Justice and Community Safety Directorate (Justice portfolio), dated February 2016.

Territory and Municipal Services Directorate, dated February 2016.

Penalty rates

Discussion of matter of public importance

MADAM SPEAKER: I have received letters from Ms Burch, Mr Coe, Mr Hanson, Mrs Jones, Ms Porter and Mr Wall proposing that matters of public importance be submitted to the Assembly. In accordance with standing order 79, I have determined that the matter proposed by Ms Burch be submitted to the Assembly, namely:

The importance of maintaining penalty rates for low paid workers in Canberra.

MS BURCH (Brindabella) (3.20): I am pleased to be able to speak to this important issue of protecting penalty rates for Australian workers. Indeed penalty rates are a representation of a social contract and have been part of our social and economic fabric for more than 100 years. They form part of the economic foundation of the standard of living which includes minimum wage, pensions, public transport, accessible education, universal health care and a sound welfare system that is available when people need it. Recent calls to reduce Sunday penalty rates seem an erosion of this social contract and an erosion of entitlements of territory workers that we as a government will not support.

Some businesses in the growing sectors of retail and hospitality are following calls for cutting Sunday penalty rates, citing undue pressures on businesses. Unfortunately, what I think these responses do not account for is the broader economic impact that would result from targeting the wages of the territory's workforce. Paying workers penalty rates for working over the weekend and public holidays benefits businesses in the long term because it will increase the disposable income of some of our lowest paid workers. In turn, that money would be spent in local businesses.

The workers who would be subject to these changes do not come from the top end of town. It is not the bankers or the politicians who rely on penalty rates to make ends meet. Instead reduced penalty rates are going to directly affect those workers who earn relatively low wages and, in turn, their families will be also affected. These changes to penalty rates would be felt by people who work in cafes, hospitality, entertainment, restaurants and in retail. They are going to be felt by students, low income families and single parents who are trying to manage the complex challenges of income stability and family commitments.

The majority of workers who regularly receive penalty rates are financially reliant on them. On average, they have household incomes of $60,000 or less, with penalty rates making a significant contribution to that amount. Many of the workers who work on weekends rely on penalty rates to pay their rent, mortgages and bills and to put food on the table. For these workers Sunday penalty rates are not the icing on the cake; it is their bread and butter. These are the workers who have structured their finances and


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