DAVE CLARK: Brendan O’Connor, the Fair Work ruling has created quite a polarising effect across the community. The ACTU this morning has released some information - they have been given independent legal advice warning that other workers may be impacted because of the decision, including teachers, nurses and also transport workers as well.
BRENDAN O’CONNOR, SHADOW MINISTER FOR WORKPLACE RELATIONS AND EMPLOYMENT: Yes, that was the concern for Labor as well. Firstly, our concern is the immediate effect that will happen to retail and hospitality workers and people working in pharmacies. That in itself is quite devastating for low paid workers when there’s been the lowest wage growth in a generation.
But, secondly, the decision doesn’t prevent, and can not prevent, the possibility of it applying beyond these awards and the main reason for that is the arguments that were put forward and it seems in part accepted by the Commission are generic arguments that are not specific to retail and hospitality and therefore can be submitted by employers of nurses and people working in other areas.
CLARK: The Prime Minister has said in an interview this morning on radio that there will be no changes to the Fair Work ruling as far as he’s concerned. Obviously Bill Shorten has expressed his concern about the decisions that the Commission has made.
O’CONNOR: Yes, and I think that’s where there’s a polarisation. I think that most people believe that the lowest paid shouldn’t get a cut, but the two major parties have totally different views. Malcolm Turnbull’s focusing on giving tax cuts to big business and supporting a decision that will cut the wages to the very low paid in this country. Labor doesn’t believe we should be attacking low paid workers like this and that’s why Bill Shorten moved a Private Members Bill last week to mitigate - in fact to stop the effect of the decision and we’ll continue this argument throughout the next two weeks in parliament and every day until the next election if the Prime Minister doesn’t change his position.
CLARK: Mr O’Connor, comments made by the member for Gilmore, Ann Sudmalis seemed to have caused quite a stir, but Mrs Sudmalis said that in the discussions she has had with a number of people in her electorate that they, the business people, would consider or be able to consider opening on Sunday because of this decision. Is it such a bad thing that she has taken that advice and has stuck with it for her constituents?
O’CONNOR: Well it’s entirely up to her what she says but if you’re going to say that it’s a gift to young people when low paid workers are going to get a cut to their real income, I guess you have to understand people are going to be disappointed with that approach. Now the notion that businesses will open on Sunday, most of the examples used so far are talking about restaurants. Now whilst I don’t support the proposition, the restaurant and catering award has not changed. So, firstly, any examples the local member might use in relation to opening on Sundays cannot apply to restaurants because there’s no change to the penalty rate. But what will happen for restaurants is that retail and hospitality workers will have less discretionary money to spend, and you will find that will go less often to restaurants and less often to hairdressers and less often to the cinema and probably less often travelling around in, you know, taking domestic tourist trips around the place.
And I think for the regions it’s even worse because money is taken out of the economy. The thing about middle class and working class families who work in these sectors is they spend most of their dollars, and that means the consumption on goods and services particularly with discretionary items will contract, and I think that will lead to less employment opportunities not more. But that’s the argument we’re having with the government, we hope Malcolm Turnbull for once in his life stands up for workers, not just banks, but to date he’s chosen not to.