THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
TUESDAY, 28 FEBRUARY 2017
SUBJECTS: Cuts to penalty rates; 18C.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: [Audio cuts in] Labor will be working with the union movement and with concerned Australians around the country, and we’re talking about 700,000 people already on low wages losing up to $77 a week, that is a real hit to the family income. And it’s just the beginning. What really concerns us is that these awards have received this judgement now, cutting penalty rates, weekend rates, the rates for public holidays, but this is just the beginning. What happens when the next industry comes to the Fair Work Commission and asks for similar treatment to reduce weekend rates and public holiday rates for other industries?
JOURNALIST: Why not commit to scrapping the Commission altogether if it can’t operate independently?
PLIBERSEK: Well I think it is very important to keep the Commission. It’s not our argument that the Commission does a terrible job all the time. We believe that it’s made the wrong decision in this instance, because of the rules that it works within. So Labor has proposed a Private Member’s Bill in the Parliament that would prevent this decision from taking effect and make sure that when the Commission is considering cuts to weekend penalty rates, public holiday rates, late night rates, they have to ensure that workers aren’t worse off over all, that their take-home pay is not cut. We’ve seen other examples of that, we’ve got right now in the Parliament a piece of legislation introduced by the Attorney-General to fix up uncertainty in Indigenous land use agreements that has arisen out of a Federal court decision. If it’s good enough for the Attorney-General to fix up the unintended consequences of a Federal Court decision, then it’s fair enough for Labor to propose improvements to the decision-making parameters of the Fair Work Commission.
JOURNALIST: The report into 18C is being handed down today, will Labor respect the findings of that report even if it suggests watering down those laws?
PLIBERSEK: Well I expect that a report that comes down from a Liberal-majority Committee will do exactly what the Government set the Committee up to do. I mean, this is such a side show. Any changes to the Race Discrimination Act will not create a single job in this country. Last year, 77 complaints were made, they were - the vast majority were conciliated, only one proceeded to court. It is a ridiculous thing for Government members to be so obsessed about, particularly when section 18D of the Race Discrimination Act has explicit protections for free speech. It amazes me that people who should be thinking about that fact that workers in their electorates have just got up to $77 a week pay cut, that we lost 56,000 jobs in Australia last year, that we’ve got underemployment at historic highs, that we’ve got inequality at 75 year highs, that we’ve got substantial company profits while workers’ pay is being cut - that’s the sort of thing that Government members should be focused on, and instead they’re obsessed with this side show.
JOURNALIST: The polls still aren’t great for the Government, would Labor welcome a change in leader, a change in Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister, would that boost your chances in the next election?
PLIBERSEK: I think the Liberals would welcome a change in leader, they just don’t know who to change to. There’s no credible alternative or Malcolm Turnbull would be gone already.