Page 867 - Week 03 - Wednesday, 22 March 2017

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The ACT government continues to have serious concerns about the federal government's attacks on workers’ rights in this country. Cuts to penalty rates, attacks on workers’ ability to organise, and draconian measures introduced in the ABCC bill all set a standard by which the federal government is undoing workplace protections and attacking the rights of employees throughout the country. I am proud to see members of the labour movement standing up to such changes and fighting for a better future, one that we can all build together where, instead of attacking the most vulnerable, we seek to improve their lives.

I congratulate Sally McManus on her recent election as Secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the first woman to take on this role and a fierce defender of workers’ rights in the country. Her achievements as secretary of the New South Wales and ACT branch of the Australian Services Union include a successful campaign for equal pay and bringing out an army of volunteers who took on the federal government in the last election.

The spirit of egalitarianism still holds strong in this country and in Canberra. It is a view that has guided this country and is still embedded in our ideals, our actions and our politics. When someone threatens this spirit, we speak out and we push back. The ACT government, of course, is strongly committed to preserving and advancing the rights of the Australian worker. We will always stand up for workers, in every sector of industry in our territory, from the hospitality and retail workers to the public servants who face relocation.

This government will always remain vigilant on the protection of workers’ rights, standing in opposition to direct attacks on penalty rates, unions and the workers of the ACT. Penalty rates have lasted over 100 years because of the strong resistance of the labour movement and ordinary Australians. And they persist because they are still relevant and necessary today. The spirit of egalitarianism endures today, and we as a government will not deflect from it.

MR BARR (Kurrajong—Chief Minister, Treasurer, Minister for Economic Development and Minister for Tourism and Major Events) (12.04): I thank Mr Pettersson and other speakers for their very strong and principled stance on this issue today. The government stands against cutting Sunday penalty rates for two very simple reasons: it will be bad for workers and bad for our economy. The negative impact on workers is clear cut. No-one who cares about the standard of living or economic security of their fellow Canberrans should look past this.

Every Sunday worker in the retail, hospitality or pharmacy sector whose wage is linked to the awards affected by this Fair Work decision stand to see their pay cut by up to $77 a week. These are people who are working in industries where the average wage is already substantially lower than the national average. The average retail worker earns just $687 a week, while someone working in a hotel or a bar earns $524 a week on average.

For these workers, a $77 pay cut represents more than 10 per cent of their weekly pay. And that is what members opposite who are cheering Fair Work’s decision are really

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