Page 812 - Week 03 - Tuesday, 21 March 2017

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MS CHEYNE (Ginninderra) (4.00): Perhaps the opposition could listen to my speech first before they decide to rise on a point of order. I cannot stress enough the importance of income security for shift and weekend workers, and I am grateful for the opportunity to speak on this issue today. People rarely adopt insecure and unsociable work hours out of preference. In most cases, they are doing what they must to make ends meet. They are squeezing in extra hours around study and caring obligations and are missing out on their own social and family commitments in the process.

Some of the most vulnerable groups in Canberra are disproportionately represented in shift and weekend workers. If we look at who is working shifts and on weekends, youth and women are heavily represented. Forty per cent of casuals in Australia are aged under 25, while women represent over half of all casual employees. Women also constitute 71.6 per cent of all part-time employees. It is more important than ever that we look after the income security of these workers. In a time of rising inequality, income insecurity can have significant impacts on a person’s mental and physical health outcomes.

We are living in an age of growing income inequality in Australia. Over the past 30 years we have seen the Gini coefficient, the UN’s preferred measure of inequality, trend upwards in Australia. The top 20 per cent of income earners in Australia earn around five times as much as a person in the bottom 20 per cent. There have also been significant differences in the rates of wage growth for different income brackets. Over the 25 years to 2010, real wages increased by 50 per cent, on average. For those in the top 10 per cent of income earners, they increased by 72 per cent. However, those in the bottom 10 per cent saw just 14 per cent growth in their salaries.

Income disparity has been further compounded by the fact we have growing wealth inequality too. There may have been salary freezes over the last few years in some sectors, but those with greater wealth were still able to see their overall income increase solidly. This has been thanks to increased rates of growth for investment income.

There are serious consequences to this inequality, Madam Assistant Speaker. Higher levels of stress, anxiety and depression, and poorer outcomes in health and education have all been linked to inequality. With this in mind, it is absolutely critical that we protect the income security of weekend and shift workers. These workers will be disproportionately affected by forthcoming cuts to penalty rates. The effect of cutting penalty rates will be lowering rates of pay, which will further compound the effects of inequality. In addition, income uncertainty in and of itself will have further negative impacts on the health and wellbeing of our shift and weekend workers.

According to the Australian Psychological Society, there are many factors that contribute to a person’s wellbeing. Wellbeing is based on the satisfaction of material, physical and psychological needs. Security has a big role to play in a person’s overall wellbeing, including income security. Housing payments, bills, healthcare expenses, clothing, food and education costs can accumulate quickly and can cause significant stress for individuals who are working hard to get by. Income security means that a

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