The Australian, March 29, 2017
Derryn Hinch has joined with One Nation in opposing the industrial umpire’s cut to Sunday penalty rates, handing Bill Shorten the chance to clinch a Senate victory on his bill to overturn the Fair Work Commission decision.
South Australian senator Nick Xenophon — who controls three upper house seats — will reveal his hand on Thursday when Labor’s “protecting take home pay” bill is debated in the Senate. The bill will ensure industrial awards cannot be varied to reduce the take-home pay of an employee.
If Labor wins Senate support to declare the Fair Work Commission decision inoperable, it will pressure Malcolm Turnbull to back down on support for the penalty rate cuts when Labor’s bill returns to the House of Representatives.
If the Coalition holds firm and refuses to modify its position, Labor believes it will be able to successfully campaign against the government on the penalty rates issue for months as the commission is due to consider in May how the cuts will be phased in from July.
NSW One Nation senator Brian Burston told The Australian his party would support Labor’s legislation. “We’ll support Labor’s bill to overturn the decision and we do that on the basis that public opinion has turned against the FWC decision,” he said.
“Currently many people haven’t received pay rises for many years so an effective pay cut would be devastating to a lot of low-income earners.”
Senator Hinch told The Australian he also would back Labor’s legislation and confirmed he had changed his mind on the issue after observing the public backlash. “I believe they should be the same as Saturday rates,” Senator Hinch told the Senate. “But in my maiden speech I promised I would listen … Cuts to Sunday penalty rates are O-U-T out.”
Labor used question time to pepper the Prime Minister about his support for the industrial umpire’s decision and his position on future cuts to penalty rates.
The opposition suggested the cuts for hospitality and retail workers could pave the way for further penalty rate reductions affecting Australian Federal Police personnel and aged-care nurses — an argument that was swiftly dismissed by Mr Turnbull.
“This is post-truth politics with a vengeance, heedless of the truth, having no regard for the facts, determined to frighten and scare Australians,” Mr Turnbull said.
“The decision of the Fair Work Commission applies to workers in the retail, hospitality, fast food areas.
“It does not apply to nurses.”