Dr Freelander Supports Restoring Penalty Rates

I rise to speak on the Fair Work Amendment (Restoring Penalty Rates) Bill 2018 put forward by our next Prime Minister, the Member for Maribyrnong.

Before coming into this place, I ran a small business for 35 years. I paid my staff penalty rates, which were very important to them. My practice manager started with me as a younger person, and, even now, 35 years later - she is still working for me.

I know how important it was for my staff to get their penalty rates for overtime and weekend work, to help pay their mortgages and support their young families.

So I stand here proudly with the enthusiasm, drive and determination to be part of a future Labor government that will protect and restore the penalty rates of thousands of people who are some of our lowest paid workers.

In this day and age, we have seen an enormous explosion in executive remuneration. I read on the weekend that James Packer is building an even bigger yacht because his present $70 million yacht is not big enough for him, yet our government has cut the penalty rates for some of the lowest-paid workers in our community.

This is just a shame.

It is an honour to speak on this legislation alongside such dedicated and hard-working members of the Labor Caucus, who understand the importance of penalty rates. Each and every one of my colleagues speaking on this legislation has committed that they will protect the poorest in their communities, do the right thing and restore their penalty rates.

I love my electorate of Macarthur. My community is a wonderful part of Sydney. It is populated by wonderful people, and I will do my best to protect them, particularly those who are really struggling under this present economic regime run by the member for Wentworth—but who knows by whom in the near future?

This government can say all they want in relation to their position on penalty rates and they can shift the blame onto the Fair Work Commission, but they could have protected the penalty rates of the poorest paid in our communities.

The other issue I have is that it is currently the penalty rates of the poorest paid being cut, in hospitality et cetera at the moment, but whose will be next?

It won't be the executives; it will be the poorest and the ones without the power to fight this very right-wing, very conservative government.

Labor has presented the government with the opportunity to join Labor in a fight to protect the incomes of the poorest but, each and every time, Malcolm Turnbull—and possibly Peter Dutton next—and his government votes in favour of cutting the penalty rates of the poorest paid.

A shame.

Let me be very clear. Every member opposite us in the chamber, every member of the Liberal-National government has voted to cut the penalty rates of their constituents on at least eight different occasions.


How is that a lie? You have all voted to cut penalty rates.

The good people of Macarthur and the good people of Australia know that the government has the opportunity to protect their penalty rates and they know that the Prime Minister at present is intent on sitting idly by and doing nothing.

Yet he and his friends are enjoying an enormous increase in their incomes and an enormous disparity in incomes between them and the poorest Australians.

The people of my community know that the Prime Minister and his coalition MPs have had many opportunities to defend their interests and they know each and every time the government has instead opted to back their mates at the big end of town.

What it all comes down to is the average Australian has not seen a real wage rise in years, and yet the government is intent on cutting their wages even further, while at the same time giving away $80 billion to the banks and to big businesses.

It was said once upon a time that there was one member for Banks in this Parliament but now there are 76 of them—they all protect the banks and big business.

It takes a truly out-of-touch Prime Minister and an ineffective government to think that it makes economic sense to take money from the pockets of working-class Australians, only to shove $80 billion into the pockets of the fat cats at the big end of town.

Through the government's inaction and failure to stand by Labor in our attempt to secure the penalty rates of everyday Australians, some workers stand to lose over $70 a week.
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