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02 Jun 2017

Labor has called on the Turnbull Government to intervene and stop a pay cut that will affect more than 600,000 Australians.

Many of those affected stand to lose around $77 a week from pay packets that average just $600.

Lyons federal Labor MP Brian Mitchell said the decision of the Fair Work Commission to cut penalty rates for workers on Sundays and public holidays would “widen Australia’s already too wide income gap” and “make Australia less fair”.

“Mr Turnbull must intervene to stop this pay cut, which starts to take effect from July 1,” Mr Mitchell said.

“Labor today made it very clear that we will fight this pay cut all the way to the next election if necessary. If elected, we will legislate to ensure the Fair Work Commission can never again cut penalty rates in this manner.”

Mr Mitchell said new figures show company profits are surging but wages have flatlined, “so why does Mr Turnbull want to give companies and banks a $50 billion tax cut while workers get a pay cut?”

Mr Mitchell said Australians had every right to ask to what extent their flat wages outcomes were contributing to record company profits and generous executive bonuses.

“We pride ourselves on being a nation of fairness but these decisions are very unfair.

“Flat wages are bad enough but when you actually take money off people who are already struggling, then I think that is just unacceptable.”

Mr Mitchell said the penalty rates decision directly impacts workers on award rates in fast food and retail but will in time flow on to enterprise bargaining agreements across all sectors, because it sends a wage suppressing signal to employers’ negotiators.

“I believe this Sunday pay cut will result in wages continuing to flatline for the foreseeable future,” Mr Mitchell said.

“If company profits and executive pay keep going up, along with house, grocery and fuel prices, the income inequality gap is simply going to go from very bad to much worse.”

Mr Mitchell said he supported and welcomed business growth and profits, but it was time for employees who contribute daily to the success of every business to share in the profits, and not continue to be sidelined.

Encl. Brian Mitchell’s speech to the House of Representatives, Wednesday 1 March 2017









Mr Speaker

Every day it becomes more clear this is a Government whose prime motivation is protecting and advancing the narrow interests of corporations and billionaires, and unpicking the social contract that has made this country the envy of the world.

A Government that tells Australians that to pay down debt it must cut pensions and it cannot afford better health care and education, yet it can afford $50 billion in tax breaks to corporations and banks.

A Government that issues 20,000 letters a week to demand repayment of overpaid social security, no matter that many demands are wrong, but fails to pursue corporate tax avoiders in the same way.

A Government that releases the confidential information of individual citizens who criticise it, but refuses to release the diaries of its Attorney-General, so Australians might learn who has his ear.

And a Government that gleefully supports a direct cut to the wages of more than 600,000 Australian men and women who work Sundays and public holidays, claiming cheaper wages boosts jobs, but defends multi-million dollar pay for company executives.

Every decision strikes at the heart of Australia’s traditions as a nation of fairness.

Every decision advances the interests of the wealthiest and most powerful, while further weakening the interests of our poorest and most vulnerable.

Australia’s income inequality is at a 75-year high – the gap has not been wider since the second world war, and the decisions this Government makes and the action that it takes widen the gap further.

The wealthiest one-fifth of households in Australia now have 12 times the wealth of the bottom one-fifth.

The inherent unfairness of this income gap is bad enough, but it’s also bad for our society and our economy.

When the gap gets this big, social mobility becomes so difficult it’s almost impossible.

If you’re born to poverty in a society with entrenched income inequality you can work hard every day of your life and remain in poverty.

A great feature of our society has been that the circumstances of our birth do not predetermine our future. Children born to poverty or other disadvantage here can rise to any station through ability and application.

A great feature of our society has been our progressive tax system where the greatest burden is borne by those with the greatest capacity to pay. This government is hellbent on reversing that.

Because in an era of record high company profits and flatlined wages, this government wants to give companies a tax break and workers a pay cut.

The McKell Institute did a paper called ‘Who loses when penalty rates are cut? And their research shows that these cuts are going to hit our whole community. It’s not just the workers. People who earn less spend less. They are less likely to keep economic growth happening when they can barely pay to keep a roof over their heads.

The McKell Institute estimates these cuts could potentially rip between 370 and 690 MILLION dollars from regional communities like mine in Lyons.

Wage growth is already low, and the Reserve Bank Governor Phillip Lowe has expressed concerns that record high levels of household debts and record low wage rises is constraining consumer spending, which in turn is slowing economic growth.

The average food service workers earns $524 a week, and an average retail worker earns $687. These people cannot afford even a dollar cut from their wages. Business must pay its way.



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