Page 869 - Week 03 - Wednesday, 22 March 2017

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This is no small effect. Private consumption makes up fully one-quarter of the ACT’s economy. That was around $16.6 billion last year. We have worked hard over the years to diversify the territory’s economy and to ensure that we have a strong local business sector, with over 26,000 businesses now operating and employing people across the ACT. But there are 28,200 Canberrans working in retail and hospitality, and a great many of them will be affected by this cut to penalty rates. Cutting the take-home pay of such a large number of Canberrans cannot help but hit consumption across the broader economy as well.

As an aside, the argument that businesses will create more jobs and activity by opening on Sundays because of this decision is just a nonsense. The retail and hospitality sectors already have some of the highest rates of underemployment in the country, with thousands of workers currently unable to get the hours they need to support their families and pay their bills. Any extra hours that end up being created by businesses opening for longer will only be absorbed by existing workers having to work for longer, that is, no net gain in employment and no net improvement in people’s capacity to spend.

There is also the fact that workers’ pay packets do not magically grow because shops and cafes are open for longer. Unless there is a matching increase in their pay and their ability to spend, longer opening hours leave our total business sector no better off and no more able to create jobs than they were before. And that is the real flaw in the arguments put by those opposite and the champions of this penalty rate cut by the federal government. They are arguing to make a small number of business owners better off at the expense of tens of thousands of workers in this city and hundreds of thousands around the country.

But it will not even do that; it will not even achieve the small and self-interested benefit that they are fighting for. All it will do is hurt workers. All it will do is undermine the growth in our economy that has been so hard won in recent years.

In conclusion, this ACT Labor government wants to see strong, growing wages that give Canberrans the economic security that they need and the quality of life that they deserve. We know that this is what is best for workers and what is best for our economy, and that is why we have absolutely no hesitation in standing up in this place against these unfair cuts. Our approach stands in marked contrast to both the empty seats on the other side of the chamber and the lack of any contribution other than a derisory set of remarks from the Leader of the Opposition so far in this debate.

I call on Mr Wall to come out of his office and come down into this place and repeat what he said on Facebook at the time of that decision so that he can put on the public record all of his reasons for supporting the position that he has publicly expressed, which would appear to be at direct odds with the position of his former leader. Now that the Canberra Liberals have taken an even further step to the right after their humiliating defeat in last year’s election, perhaps Mr Wall’s position, in fact, more accurately reflects the overall view of the Canberra Liberals.

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