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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 03 Hansard (Wednesday, 22 March 2017) . . Page.. 865 ..

either somebody has to work more hours to meet their expenses in life or they have to live on less income. That is a difficult choice and one I do not think we would want to wish on anybody. For those who are not undertaking studies, the cuts to penalty rates are just another barrier to getting a start in life. It means it will take longer to save up a deposit for their first home, for example.

Surveys show that the workforce in the industries impacted by the penalty rate cuts is also made up of a significant number of women. The impact on women will simply work to widen the gender pay gap that is already prevalent through much of our economy. A large proportion of women working in these sectors are working on a part-time basis so are reliant on penalty rates to top up their earnings. We know women still carry a disproportionate burden of raising children and running a family. Many are reliant on the additional income provided through penalty rates and casual or part-time work to balance work and family commitments.

As was pointed out by the Director of the University of New South Wales Social Policy Research Centre, a lot of women work Sunday shifts because they do not have to pay for child care to do so. Their penalty rates are being cut at the same time that welfare and family payments are being cut. This underlines some of the various pressures we are seeing coming out of national policy at the moment where this sort of pincer movement is very much in place.

This underlines the point again that I was making yesterday around compensation for people having to work on weekends. In the scenario I just described we see women working Sunday shifts because their partners are at home and can undertake the childcare responsibilities. But it means there are limited opportunities to have time together as a family unit because somebody else is out working. Those parents are balancing that pressure. To take away the compensation or the reward that comes from working what would be considered unsociable hours undermines some of those really important social values that we should also be making the case for.

It seems clear that cuts to penalty rates is a simple matter of the interests of businesses and investors being prioritised before those of women, young people and some of the lowest paid members of our community. As has been pointed out, concerns will now be raised amongst workers in other industries who are likewise compensated through penalty rates for the work they do on weekends, public holidays and at unsociable hours that this decision by the Fair Work Commission will be a precedent that will lead to further cuts in other industries.

It was frankly astonishing yesterday during the discussion on the matter of public importance that, rather than engaging in a substantive debate around the issues of income security and the obvious impact of penalty rates, the Canberra Liberals sought to block the discussion through a series of points of order and then simply say, “We’re not participating in this debate.” As I said yesterday, that was an extraordinary abrogation of the opportunity to discuss an important issue. You may have different views on what the outcome should be, but to simply say, “We’re not participating in this debate because we don’t like the tenor of your MPI or your motion,” is pretty poor form.

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