Government Cuts to Penalty Rates, Attack on Childcare


Peter Khalil: We all know that this Sunday 700,000 workers in hospitality, fast food, retail and pharmacy industries will suffer another cut to their penalty rates. For those workers and the 4½ million working Australians across other industries like emergency services—our first responders—nursing, manufacturing and tourism, penalty rates are essential to making ends meet. We know that, and many of us in this place have worked in some of those industries—

Mr Wallace interjecting—

Peter Khalil: despite what the member for Fisher says. We know how hard these people work and we know how low some of their wages are—

Mr Wallace: Are they being cut under this?

Peter Khalil: But of course the member for Fisher and his leader, the Prime Minister, have probably never had to rely on penalty rates, have you, to get by? Because in all the Prime Minister’s arrogance—

Mr Wallace interjecting—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Fisher.

Peter Khalil: he just doesn’t understand what it’s like to need penalty rates. None of them over that side can comprehend that the estimated average cut of $77 that these people will suffer can be the difference between putting food on the table, buying shoes for the kids or keeping the lights on. He’s never had to face that difficult question, has he?

When I was younger, like many of us on this side probably, I worked some of these jobs to get by as well. I worked as a cleaner. I worked night shifts in a service station. I worked in retail and hospitality and washed dishes in restaurants. And, yes, I also went to university, because those aspirational Labor policies gave me access to a university education. Those are the policies of Labor governments. I’ve spoken before in this House about how I grew up in a housing commission. It was Labor policies and those visionary Labor governments that gave me and my family access to affordable housing, universal health care and education. I will forever be grateful for those Labor policies giving me, and millions of other Australians like me, the best possible start in life, despite our postcode. These are the things that Labor governments do.

That’s why we on this side of the House will never think it’s fair to inflict a pay cut on some of the lowest-paid workers in this country, people who rely on that little bit of extra money to pay the bills and raise their children. And that’s why Labor has introduced legislation in this place to protect the penalty rates. But the coalition is content to do nothing to protect these people. In fact, they voted against Labor’s attempts to protect penalty rates—eight times in total. They back the big end of town; we know that. And they do it at the expense of the ordinary working and middle-class Australians who rely on penalty rates to get by. For a coalition government to treat a tax handout to millionaires and multinational companies as more important than protecting the most vulnerable in our communities is so bizarre and obscene that I can’t understand it. I assume some on the other side are intelligent enough to understand how bizarre that is.

Let’s not forget that this government’s unfair changes to childcare are also set to begin on 2 July, and we’ve heard about how this unfair package of cuts will hurt those families who can least afford it. It reduces access to early education for those kids who need it most. One in four families will be worse off because of the government’s proposed changes to child care. That’s some 279,000 families nationwide, and, in my electorate of Wills, that’s 2,225 families that will be negatively impacted. The Turnbull government’s unfair childcare package will hurt those families whose can least afford it because it reduces access to early education for those kids who need it most.

While its attack on early childhood education is bad enough, education as a whole is within the sights of the government. Education, let’s remember, is the key to opportunity. It was bequeathed to us, regardless of our postcode or our ethnicity, by successive Labor governments, who were committed to the idea of equality of opportunity and access to education. But that’s now under siege by this government. This government has cut $2.8 billion from TAFE and about $22 billion from primary and secondary education. In stark contrast, under the previous Labor government, 1,600 people in my electorate of Wills were able to go to university because of the Rudd-Gillard government’s policies, and it’s projected that, under a future Labor government, under our policies, an additional 1,500 people in my electorate will receive the opportunity of a university education. That’s aspiration. That’s giving people the opportunity to achieve and progress based on their merit.

But the Liberals want to make Australian students pay $100,000 a degree, and the only reason $100,000 degrees aren’t a reality is that Labor and the crossbenchers have blocked the Liberals’ plan in the Senate. Australian students now make up the sixth-highest contribution to the cost of university education compared to other economies.