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Read all the latest news from Brendan O'Connor MP


May 06, 2019

PAUL NEWBURY, CANDIDATE FOR BRISBANE: We’re here at the Ekka Showgrounds in Brisbane on Labour Day. All our union members are here with their families. It is particularly relevant today because it will remind people that 15,000 workers in the Brisbane area, retail workers and hospitality workers have lost their penalty rates thanks to a decision of the Scott Morrison Government. I find it hard to reconcile that with a Government that claims to care about cost of living pressures. So I’d like to introduce our Shadow Minister for Employment Brendan O’Connor who has got a few words to say.

BRENDAN O’CONNOR, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT AND WORKPLACE RELATIONS: Thanks very much Paul. It’s fantastic to be in Brisbane. Nobody does May Day like Brisbane, and this is a gathering of workers and their families because they are concerned about cost of living pressures.

They are concerned that Scott Morrison voted eight times to cut penalty rates. They are concerned that Scott Morrison wants to give $77 billion to the top end of town, to the richest workers, the top three per cent, and do so by cutting schools and hospital funding. I mean we need to know where, what schools and what hospitals Scott Morrison plans to cut because until he tells people that, we don’t know where the money is coming from.

I’ve got a joke for you – why did Scott Morrison cross the road? Because he wanted to avoid Q&A.

I mean the fact is Scott Morrison is scared of going on an ABC program because he doesn’t want to give the detail of the $77 billion to the public. And he really needs to do that. He needs to do that to be upfront with the Australian people.

The thing about Labor is we’ve announced our policies, and we will have full costing by the end of this week. And yet of course Scott Morrison wants to hide his plans to cut schools and hospitals.

But today, I’m here with thousands of workers and their families making a very strong stand in favour of more secure work, and indeed better wages. As Bill Shorten has made clear, this election is a referendum on wages and job security. Only Labor will restore penalty rates for workers in Brisbane and around the country, and indeed in this seat.

Only Labor will be cracking down on labour hire, on 457 visas, and on casuals. We need to make sure that people are able to make ends meet, have secure jobs, have a decent wage increase, at a time when profit growth is five times faster than wage growth. We’ve got the lowest wages growth on record and yet we have a Government who shows a callous disregard for working people.

So today, at the May Day rally, you are seeing thousands of people from Paul’s seat in Brisbane and indeed around the entire city come together with their families to say enough is enough, we want to see a real wage increase. Everything is going up in this country except for wages and it’s about time people got a decent wage increase.

People are saying they’ve got fulltime families, they need fulltime jobs. They have long term mortgages, they need long term jobs. They need secure work so they can pay the bills, put food on the table, pay the mortgage or the rent, look after their families. That’s what today is about – making sure we have a fairer Australia. A fair go for people in Brisbane and around the country.

Only Labor offers that option. As we’ve seen, Scott Morrison wants to see further cuts to hospitals, further cuts to schools, and give $77 billion to the top three per cent of workers in this country. And of course, when will the $80 billion to big business come back? We know that it was his main plan for the last five years to provide $80 billion to the big end of town, to big business. We would expect if Scott Morrison government is elected he will just bring back his plan to give $80 billion to the big banks and to multi-national companies.

That’s why this election there is a stark choice between Labor who wants to have a fair Australia, and indeed Scott Morrison and the Liberals who just want to look after the top end of town. Happy to take any questions.

JOURNALIST: So why is it appropriate to intervene when penalty rates are set by Fair Work?

O’CONNOR: We believe that decision was exceptional. It is cutting, as Paul just said, cutting wages for hardworking hospitality, retail, pharmacy and fast food workers at a time of the lowest wage growth, and no compensation. For that reason, Labor introduced a Private Members Bill to restore penalty rates as they were on 30 June 2017. However, Scott Morrison and the Liberals voted eight times against that bill. That means he voted eight times to support the cuts to penalty rates.

JOURNALIST: How important are the union members here today to your election campaign?

O’CONNOR: Well I think the workers of Australia, the unions, of course are very concerned about their members’ jobs security and the facts that their wages are going backwards in this country. So of course workers throughout the country are saying to the Government, saying to Scott Morrison, enough is enough, when do we get our fair share of economic growth?

When do wages start growing like profits are growing? When do we see the restoration of penalty rates? They want their weekend back, they want guaranteed hours of work, they deserve that. In a relatively rich country how can it be fair that you cut wages in real terms when people are struggling to make ends meet?

JOURNALIST: Bill Shorten was here yesterday, he couldn’t stick around for the march?

O’CONNOR: He’ll be back. Bill Shorten is crossing the country, talking to workers, talking to families, really outlining Labor’s vision for a fairer society, not just looking after the top end of town, but more funding for schools, more funding for hospitals, a real wage increase for workers, more secure work. That’s what Bill Shorten and the Labor team offer. By way of contrast, Scott Morrison is a chicken. Too scared to go on Q&A, doesn’t want to reveal his details of his $77 billion tax giveaway to the top three per cent. Where is that money coming from, Scott? What school funding is being cut? What hospitals are losing services because of the need to look after your mates at the top end of town? That’s the reality with Scott Morrison. Thanks very much.