SUBJECT/S: Fair Work Commission ruling on Sunday penalty rates.
RAY HADLEY: And welcome back to the second hour of the Ray Hadley Morning Program. Good to have your company, 131873 is the open line number. This audio from the Neil Mitchell program, April 2016, 3AW in Melbourne – one of the Macquarie Media Network stations – Luke says the interviewer, being Neil, clearly says if you’re Prime Minister, will you accept the decision of the Fair Work Commission to Bill Shorten. He isn’t the Prime Minister, so he doesn’t have to accept the decision, or does he? Well …
NEIL MITCHELL: Will you accept their findings, given this is an independent body assessing penalty rates for Sunday? If you’re Prime Minister …
BILL SHORTEN: Yes.
NEIL MITCHELL: … you’ll accept them?
BILL SHORTEN: Yes.
NEIL MITCHELL: Even if they reduce Sunday penalty rates.
BILL SHORTEN: Well, I said I’d accept the independent tribunal.
[End of excerpt]
RAY HADLEY: I said to Luke in replying to his email, yes, as PM he would have been in a position to actually enact the legislation. So, given he’s in Opposition, he must support the legislation, as he would have as Prime Minister. So he can wriggle all he likes. In Opposition, he must support the view he held in April of 2016 that he would have enacted, as Prime Minister, the legislation. He can’t get out of it. No wriggle room, Luke, in my opinion. Let’s see what the Minister for Employment, federally, and Minister for Women says — Michaelia Cash, the Senator. Senator, good morning.
MINISTER CASH: Good morning, Ray, and good morning to your listeners.
RAY HADLEY: Well, can he wriggle out of it, Bill Shorten?
MINISTER CASH: Absolutely not. Let me just give you a quick summary. Labor set up the Fair Work Commission, so it’s their system. Labor actually appointed the majority of the people who undertook the penalty rates decision and, in fact, President Ross is a hand-picked appointment by the Labor Party.
RAY HADLEY: He’s a former ACTU official.
MINISTER CASH: He’s a former – exactly. Bill Shorten, when Employment Minister, specifically amended the legislation and asked this commission to review penalty rates, bearing in mind, Ray, he did not have to do this. This was a decision that he took. He then said – and you’ve just played back the audio – he would respect the umpire’s decision. Jump forward to yesterday. He’s now crying political opportunist tears because of – this is the ironic thing – because of what his system, his review and his people decided to do. Ray, am I missing something?
RAY HADLEY: No, Senator, I’m as perplexed as you. I just want to share with listeners something I’ve shared while I was doing Alan’s show this morning. Mr Iain Ross – formerly a senior ACTU official, now the President of the Fair Work Commission – he said, previously, he’d been critical of previous employer attempts to cut those rates on a Sunday, saying they’d be substandard. But he found the employers’ case this time supported the proposition that lower Sunday penalties would increase service levels with a consequent increase in employment. He agreed that cutting Sunday rates was likely to lead to increased Sunday trading hours, more stores being open and an increase in overall hours worked by employees; therefore, more money for more people. You can’t escape that, if in fact you appointed that man to be the President.
MINISTER CASH: And I think that’s the point. This is a process that was instigated, as we said, by Bill Shorten when he was the Workplace Relations Minister. But it’s also a process that’s been undertaken now by Iain Ross and the panel for a number of years. They have seen in excess of 5,000 submissions, both from employer representatives and employee representatives. They have made their decision based on all of the evidence that was presented to them. So for Bill Shorten to yesterday roll out his victim, Trent, who says this is the end of the world has appeared etcetera, only for us to find out that Trent is not affected by the decision and his employer has actually had to come out and issue that statement, again shows it’s just another Labor lie. Bill Shorten will do anything and say anything as the political opportunity arises.
RAY HADLEY: Look, just in relation to Trent Hunter – who is a member of the ALP and he’s only 23 – appearing in that press conference, one would have assumed, given that he’s employed on an enterprise agreement at Coles and will be unaffected by Sunday penalty rates no matter what happens, someone from the Opposition Leader’s office should have said, ‘Now, Trent, who do you work for? Coles. Okay, can someone ring Coles or the union and see under what arrangement he works on a Sunday before we trot him out?’ Because, as Mr O’Connor said, your counterpart from the Opposition, I think Trent may have got a little bit excited.
MINISTER CASH: Trent may have got a little bit excited, but again it shows you, Bill Shorten will do anything, say anything and stand next to anybody to push his politically opportunist point of view. Because the one thing we do know about Bill Shorten, apart from the fact that he is a political opportunist, is in relation to the stripping of workers’ penalty rates. He is the only person in the Parliament who has personally undertaken a negotiation as a union boss with an employer which resulted in the penalty rates being stripped from the lowest paid workers in Australia, and they are, of course, the workers at Cleanevent. So when Bill Shorten stands up and mentions the word penalty rates, quite frankly, you know, you cannot trust anything he says, because he has form, he has record when it actually comes to stripping workers of their penalty rates.
RAY HADLEY: Okay. Minister, what’s the next process now that the recommendation has come from the Fair Work Commission?
MINISTER CASH: Okay. Well, the Government has always maintained a clear and consistent position. The setting of penalty rates is a matter for the independent Fair Work Commission to determine, not Government. So they have made their decision to adjust Sunday penalty rates. And I have to say, Ray, I am absolutely disgusted at the campaign that has started in relation to the abolition of Sunday penalty rates. Anyone who is indulging in that campaign should be ashamed of themselves. Penalty rates still apply, as you and I know, on a Sunday. They have been adjusted to more closely align to Saturday. But in relation to the next step …
RAY HADLEY: And they’re still better than Saturdays by the way.
MINISTER CASH: They are, and that’s the point as well; they are still better than Saturday. So anybody who says they’ve been abolished is an outright liar.
RAY HADLEY: Well, I just…
MINISTER CASH: No, just for a second, you did say, what is the next step. President Ross acknowledged in his decision they now needed to take submissions in relation to how we transition into this. That is the next step in the process.
RAY HADLEY: I was going to say, there’s a table in all the papers, wherever you’re listening, showing this, and for instance in retail if you’re full time, you currently get paid double time, you get paid time-and-a-half. In other instances, if you’re casual in retail, you get time-and-three quarters.
MINISTER CASH: You still get a penalty rate. And you know, Ray, I was in a shopping centre yesterday talking to some shop owners. They were obviously saying to me, ‘we can’t open on a Sunday; this may now mean we can’, which is a real positive. But I also spoke to a number of mums who said to me, ‘Michaelia, you know my husband’s actually at home on a Sunday. This might now give me the opportunity to undertake some work on a Sunday in a café that might open up now in our local area’. So even President Ross acknowledged the positive benefits of the decision he’s made in terms of those who are currently underemployed or unemployed, and the fact that businesses will now be able to open on a Sunday and employ more people - that’s a good thing. But, Ray, it also, I think, what the decision really did was acknowledge the place that Sundays now have in society. They’re not seen as they were 10, 15, 20 years ago. But the important point is also they still attract the penalty rate, as they should.
RAY HADLEY: Well, I might mention, I’m old enough to remember when my late father, on a Sunday, had to be a traveller to get a drink. You had to go over the river at Windsor to the pub on the other side and right down that you’d travel overnight.
MINISTER CASH: Ray, I have to tell you this. I’m still old enough to remember, and your listeners will smile when they hear this - do you remember the petrol roster on a Sunday, where mum and dad would be praying they could actually roll into a petrol station and you’d be close enough you’d get out, the kids would be sent out to read where the open petrol station was, and you jump back in the car and you hope and pray you had enough petrol to get there. Times have changed.
RAY HADLEY: They have indeed. Thanks for your time, Minister.
MINISTER CASH: Good on you, Ray, good to be with you.
RAY HADLEY: Senator Michaelia Cash, Minister of Employment, Minister for Women.