Page 895 - Week 03 - Wednesday, 22 March 2017

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As I discussed in some detail yesterday, income security is one of the key contributors to health and wellbeing. To just dismiss it out of hand and describe our desire to discuss this in this Assembly as window-dressing is insulting to the 26,000 Canberrans who miss out on their weekends in order to work. Many of them do not do it out of choice but out of necessity. Many of them—women and youth—are among the most vulnerable in our society.

Mr Assistant Speaker, penalty rates compensate many of Canberra’s lowest paid for working when the rest of us are enjoying the weekend. The cut in penalty rates undervalues the efforts of hardworking Canberrans who need the extra income to make ends meet. This move risks placing our lowest paid in extremely difficult financial situations.

The penalty rates attached to Sundays have always been designed to compensate for missing out on this traditional leisure time. However, the recent Fair Work Commission’s decision to cut Sunday and public holiday penalty rates means that these workers’ time away from family and friends is no longer appropriately remunerated or valued.

Even worse, their time to relax will further shrink. In order to pay the bills, workers are forced to work extra shifts just to take home the same pay packet as before. They would have to work 33 per cent more hours just to get a net gain based on this decision. This places further financial and mental stress on individuals and households.

Proponents of this change argue that the negative impact of working on Sundays is no different from the impact of working on Saturdays. I would direct these individuals to a report published by the Centre for Work + Life at the University of South Australia titled Evenings, nights and weekends: working unsocial hours and penalty rates.

This report shows that Sunday is still widely seen as a day for connecting with family and community. While we might get our washing done on Saturdays, on Sundays we are having lunch with mum and dad or catching up with friends with a picnic and maybe a game of cricket.

Findings from the Australian work and life index have consistently shown that regularly working on Sundays is noticeably associated with higher work-life interference. Those who work Sundays already sacrifice so much and they now will get less take-home pay because of it.

Finally, the gender pay gap is real worldwide and it is felt in the ACT. We know that women will earn less than men in their lifetimes and we know this needs to change. The gender pay gap means that women in our community are retiring with less superannuation and have fewer life savings. In fact, International Women’s Day’s theme was “Be bold for change”. But the Fair Work Commission’s decision to cut penalty rates is anything but bold.

You do not need statistics to tell you that the majority of Sunday workers are women. So it is particularly galling that at a time when there is a call around the world for

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