Release type: Transcript


Decision of Fair Work Commission on Sunday penalty rates


Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash
Minister for Employment
Minister for Women
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service
Senator for Western Australia


SUBJECTS: Decision of the Fair Work Commission on Sunday penalty rates, violence against women, WA election

MINISTER CASH: Well, ladies and gentlemen, good morning. This morning we have seen President Ross of the Fair Work Commission hand down the Fair Work Commission’s decision in relation to Sunday penalty rates.

In terms of the decision itself, the Fair Work Commission, at the behest of the former Labor Government, and Bill Shorten, were reviewing penalty rates within modern awards. As part of this decision, they reviewed the penalty rates in six modern awards and the decision affects four out of 122 awards.

I’m very disappointed, already, that a scare campaign has already been started. I am already receiving emails stating that Sunday penalty rates have been abolished. Shame on those who have instigated this scare campaign! That was not the decision of the independent Fair Work Commission.

The Fair Work Commission today has handed down a decision which aligns penalty rates in the hospitality, retail, fast food and pharmacy awards more closely with Saturday penalty rates. People who work on a Sunday will still receive a penalty rate. It is more closely aligned, however, with a Saturday penalty rate.

In terms of the history of this decision, I will be carefully watching Mr Shorten and Mr O’Connor today, because, when it comes to the issue of penalty rates, Bill Shorten has a glass jaw. He is the person solely responsible for the fact that the Fair Work Commission was reviewing penalty rates, and he needs to once and for all take responsibility for this decision. He can say what he likes today about the decision, but what he does need to acknowledge is his role in it, and the fact that it is either an independent commission or it is not.

The Government respects the fact that, for many years now, thousands of submissions have been received by President Ross and the panel looking at this issue. There is a decision that runs to several hundred pages. The decision that the independent Fair Work Commission has made today is based on the evidence that was presented to it.

I do note that, in relation to the decision, the Commission has said, that for those who are affected, appropriate transitional arrangements need to be put in place, and that the Commission will now look at taking submissions on this matter.

I am also pleased to see, though, that the Commission and a number of the employer groups that have gone out today have acknowledged the positive impact that the decision will have on employment. I have spoken to many employers, in particular in rural and regional Australia, who are unable to open on a Sunday. Because of the decision that has been made, they will now be open — able to open on a Sunday. That is a good thing, in particular for those who are currently unemployed or who are underemployed. It will give them the opportunity to step up into the workforce. So, in relation to the decision, the Government acknowledges today the decision of the independent Fair Work Commission to more closely align Sunday penalty rates with Saturday penalty rates.

Any questions?

JOURNALIST: The ACTU says that this will cut up to $6,000 from some of the lowest paid workers. Do you think that’s correct?

MINISTER CASH: We are currently analysing the decision but, as I’ve said, even President Ross, who of course was appointed by the former Labor Government, has acknowledged that the decision will affect some people, and that is why the Fair Work Commission, in its decision at chapter 11, has stated that it does believe that appropriate transitional arrangements do need to be put in place. It will now seek submissions from all affected parties, employer groups and employee groups, in relation to what those transitional provisions should be.

But, again, as I said, the decision was only handed down but an hour ago, and I am very disappointed that the unions and the Labor Party are already indulging in a scare campaign. The emails that I am receiving, state: ‘Sunday penalty rates have been abolished’. That is an absolute disgrace, and they should be ashamed of themselves for going out and instigating such a scare campaign. Sunday penalty rates stay in place.

What the independent Fair Work Commission has today decided, based on all of the evidence over a number of years that was presented to it, was that in four industries — retail, hospitality, fast food and pharmacy — there would be a reduction to more closely align them with Saturday.

I’ve also already started receiving emails in relation to the fact that nurses and emergency services are affected. I can confirm that they are not. The Fair Work Commission, in its decision, clearly states that they have no intention of this decision flowing on anywhere else. So anybody who today stands up and says that nurses and emergency services workers will be affected — they are blatantly misleading you, as they are not.

JOURNALIST: What are the main reasons for the change that the Commission has given?

MINISTER CASH: Well, as I said, it is a very long document, and we are currently analysing the decision.

However, as I said, this was as a direct result of Bill Shorten, when he was the relevant Minister in Government, amending the Fair Work Act to look at penalty rates in the context of modern awards. As a result of that, the Commission has, over two or three years, now travelled around Australia. It has received thousands of submissions from interested parties arguing the case either for a reduction in penalty rates or, alternatively, for no reduction in penalty rates.

Certainly, in terms of the employers that I have spoken to over a number of years now, they are very happy to pay penalty rates. There is no-one who is out there saying that a penalty rate should not be paid on a Sunday. And, again, anybody who stands up today and says that, is again blatantly misleading the Australian people.

Employers recognise the special place that a Sunday and a Saturday have for Australians. However, in terms of businesses that have been unable to open on a Sunday, the feedback that I have received is that this decision will now enable them to offer employment to people on a Sunday, and that is a positive for those who are unemployed or currently underemployed. If a business — hey, we’re from Western Australia; we know what it’s like when you go down south and can’t get cup of coffee on a Sunday, and then you talk to the owner as to why, I would hope that we now see, in particular in rural and regional Australia, positive effects on employment and businesses being able to open.

JOURNALIST: So you think there will be a noticeable drop in the unemployment rate and the underemployment rate?

MINISTER CASH: Certainly not overnight; that’s not what we’re saying. What we’re saying is that based on the evidence that I’ve received presented to the Commission, based on the statements that have been made this morning from a number — COSBOA in particular, Peter Strong was out there in Canberra, Mr Zimmerman obviously with the Retailers Association — certainly their comments are, and the evidence they gave to the Commission was that in arguing for a reduction in the Sunday rate — not an abolition, a reduction — this would have a positive impact on many of their employers who would now be able to open on a Sunday and offer more employment, in particular to those who are unemployed or underemployed.

JOURNALIST: Minister, could you comment on Mr Keysar Trad’s comments relating to, apparently, some kind of acknowledgement that wife-beating is some kind of acceptable ‘last resort’, I think, was the word?

MINISTER CASH: Thank you for that question. I have seen the comment, as published in the newspapers this morning. I have one very clear message for Mr Trad and anyone who holds those views: they are completely, totally and utterly unacceptable. Violence against women or men has no place in Australia. Anyone who holds those views, quite frankly, needs to give them a reassessment very quickly. They were unacceptable. I am disappointed in them. I would hope today to see members of the Labor Party coming out and also condemning those comments. They have no place in modern Australia.

JOURNALIST: Do think that it was perhaps just a clumsy form of words from Mr Trad?

MINISTER CASH: Based on the reporting I have seen, they actually appear to be a very considered form of words. Again, they are totally, completely and utterly unacceptable. Those views have no place in modern Australia. Violence against women and men is unacceptable in any form.

JOURNALIST: Will you be conveying that formally to Mr Trad?

MINISTER CASH: I think Mr Trad, if he is watching this press conference now, will get my message quite clearly. But, yes, I will.

JOURNALIST: Senator, I do not know if you managed to catch the state leaders' debate last night. I was just interested in your opinion and, also, on the poll in The West Australian today showing that a lot of Liberal seats are in doubt now.

MINISTER CASH: Well, we've still got, I think, 17 days to go before the March 11 election. Western Australians have a very clear choice. They can vote for a strong, stable Liberal Government that is focused on creating jobs, in particular in relation to the major infrastructure projects that Colin Barnett and his team have put in place, and they can vote for the team that wants to continue getting the job done, or, they can vote for Mark McGowan.

I did listen to Mark McGowan's comments last night — 'It's time for a change'. Let me just remind Western Australians of the last time Australians said it was time for a change. That was in 2007, when they changed from the strong, stable Howard Government to the tried and untested Rudd Government. Whenever you bring Mr Howard back to Western Australia and you take him through shopping centres, I am honestly amazed at the number of people who come up to him and say, 'I apologise. I made a mistake in 2007. I wish I had never voted for Mr Rudd.'

That is the decision that Western Australians now have on March 11: strong, stable government with Colin Barnett, focused on job creation, or the tried and untested Mark McGowan, who, in particular, whilst as Leader of the Opposition, has said no to so many of the infrastructure projects — Perth Stadium, Elizabeth Quay, etcetera. He said no to those projects. What he effectively was saying no to was job creation in Western Australia. I know what I'll be doing on March 11. I'll be casting my vote for Colin Barnett, so he can continue to get the job done.

JOURNALIST: Do you agree with Christian Porter's assessment that he is a slimy, sweaty, junior naval lawyer that isn't fit to be the Premier?

MINISTER CASH: I agree with Christian Porter's assessment of let's vote for Colin Barnett to ensure that the Liberal team is able to continue the good work that they have been doing over eight-and-a-half years and let's continue getting the job done. Thank you all very much.