McMILLAN // LABOR candidate for McMillan Chris Buckingham has come out swinging against a Productivity Commission report recommending a reduction in Sunday penalty rates.
Above: Chris Buckingham (left) and Russell Broadbent (right). Photos by article author.
First published in the 14 August 2015 edition of the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen – all dates relative to then. Click here to read the full edition online.
Many recommendations have been outlined in the report, but the suggestions of reducing the Sunday penalty rate to be in line with Saturdays for hospitality [and retail] workers and the introduction of more negotiable contracts stand out.
The Liberal Party commissioned the review in a bid to ensure industrial relations laws “work for everyone.”The government has not said it would adopt the commission’s reccomendations, but Mr Buckingham has warned they could be “WorkChoices 2.0” if enacted – a reference to the Howard government’s unpopular enterprise bargaining policy.
“Tony Abbott’s review of workplace relations by the Productivity Commission shows the Liberals are determined to introduce WorkChoices 2.0,” Mr Buckingham said on social media.
“The recently released report makes a number of recommendations in relation to, among other things, penalty rates, the minimum wage, unfair dismissal, individual arrangements, enterprise bargaining and the Fair Work Commission.
“The Commission has proposed a two-tier penalty rate system, which Labor will not support and the Abbott Government must immediately rule out.
“An adoption of this two-tier system would create two Australias. One Australia where some people are fairly remunerated and another Australia where there is a working poor who are unable to sustain a modest, decent standard of living.”
“With wages growth at its lowest in 20 years, penalty rates are essential to workers here in McMillan, but Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey’s Liberals are seeking to attack penalty rates through the back door of the Productivity Commission.
“The Government wrote the terms of reference for the review, they specifically directed the Commission to look at penalty rates and the minimum wage.
“This is a slippery slope to wholesale cuts to wages and other conditions.”
The Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen asked Liberal MP for McMillan Russell Broadbent his thoughts on the Productivity Commission report on Monday, but there was no response before deadline.
He did however respond to questions from WBBC after parts of an early version of the report leaked in January.
Mr Broadbent said “I’ve always been a proponent of more flexible workplaces.”
But, asked if he believed there should be a reduction to minimum pay, Mr Broadbent said “no.”
“I always had a caveat on that that says there is a no disadvantage clause,” he said.
“So over the longer period of time, and employer and an employee can come to an arrangement that suits both of them regardless of awards, so it doesn’t reduce their income but it changes the way they operate in the workplace.
“If people want to be scaremongering about it, you can, but I want things that are positive for this nation.”
Mr Broadbent said he was a supporter of WorkChoices. Asked why, given there were situations under WorkChoices where workers were left worse off, he said: “and WorkChoices didn’t get up.”
WorkChoices was passed in 2005 and came into effect in 2006. The legislation was repealed in its entirety by the Rudd government in 2009.
WBBC asked Mr Broadbent to clarify his comment.
“Well it didn’t get up in the long run,” he said.
WBBC said it would have got up in the long run if there had not been a change of government. Mr Broadbent replied: “had there been, as I had advocated for all the way along, a no disadvantage clause, we’d still have had those very good workplace relations laws in place now.”
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