Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2016 Week 4 Hansard (6 April) . .
to public education, a unique system of wage regulation, progressive income taxes, and a well-targeted social security safety net. As a result we were able to place limits on inequality within an open economy with relatively low taxes and public expenditures, and a flexible labour market.
That Australian economic model is something that is central in this debate. Penalty rates are an important tool in a suite of measures designed to minimise inequality in this country. They are an important part of the social contract that has been under attack from free market ideology for several decades. Any moves to cut penalty rates will further unravel that social contract that I believe began with the Harvester judgment in 1907.
The Greens will continue to fight any cuts to penalty rates, and I will be supporting this motion here today in reflection of the comments I have made. I thank Mr Hinder for giving us the opportunity to discuss this topic today.
MR SMYTH (Brindabella) (4.51): One can forgive the new member for not having read some of the debates in Hansard before, but just let me read what the Leader of the Opposition said on 11 February:
Let me repeat this to remove any doubt whatsoever: the Canberra Liberals will not cut penalty rates. We do not support cutting penalty rates and we will oppose cuts to penalty rates for low paid workers in Canberra.
I am not sure why we are having this debate again when that was quite clear back on 11 February, Madam Deputy Speaker, in your MPI. One can assume that the new member will learn and do his research better. The unambiguous statement by the Leader of the Opposition speaks for itself.
As this motion notes, though, his government, through the Minister for Workplace Safety and Industrial Relations, has made its views known to the Fair Work Commission. It is one of among 500 submissions received by that body on this matter. Clearly there is a lot of interest in the issue.
I see the motion calls on the Assembly to reaffirm its commitment to the lowest paid workers in the ACT community. I think we have all done that. I say to the member, though, that if he had genuine concerns for low paid workers, he would be urging his government to do something about spiralling rates and government fees and charges that are pushing down their real incomes and denigrating their standards of living. This is the bit that is really hurting the bottom line in their pockets as we speak. Then saddling the Canberra community with an extra $700 million for a tram system that will hardly get used by the majority of the population will in no way help our lowest paid workers either. And the tram certainly will not get most of them home when they have been working late hours or after hours. So I am unsure as to where the motion gets us in terms of providing real and substantive help for Canberra's lowest paid workers.
Perhaps the member also needs to know that the Fair Work Commission is conducting a four-year review of modern awards—ie penalty rates—in accordance with the Fair Work Act 2009. If I remember rightly, in 2009 it was a federal Labor government in
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