Private Members' Business - Workplace Relations

Ms BIRD(Cunningham) (17:18): I rise to support the motion moved by the member for Lyons which is before the House today. Recently I have spoken in the House about issues of generational unfairness which are increasingly impacting on young Australians. This government have continued to attack young Australians from all angles—letting housing affordability get out of control, watching the youth unemployment rates skyrocket and attempting to slash income support for those under 25 at the same time as the cost of living continues to rise. Their sustained attacks—and we have incurred more today—on penalty rates are just another stark example of their unfair attacks on young Australians.

As the member for Lyons' motion notes, the cut in penalty rates in the retail trade would disproportionately affect young people, with one-third of these workers aged between 15 and 24. Just today I met with Matt, a young man from my electorate who is down here campaigning and making people aware of how these decisions will affect him. He is a casual at Spotlight in Wollongong. He moved to Wollongong from Orange to study but was not able to get income support, so he has to work. Matt tells me that his wage barely covers his cost of living. Over half his wage goes in rental costs, and he will lose $70 for every Sunday that he works. That is a big hit on his take-home pay.

Young Australians are already dealing with a changing workforce. Like Matt, they are increasingly required to work irregular or unreliable hours. They are forced to take whatever they can get, no matter whether that is enough to support them for study or for their living costs. Many are just making ends meet. Costs of living continue to increase. Housing stress is a real issue. The cost of getting a good education through university or TAFE continues to rise and, in fact, under government policies we potentially see that increasing even further.

The government wants to know why young Australians are so disenfranchised from politics and are turning towards protest parties or donkey votes. This is why. These continued attacks and this clear lack of understanding of the challenges facing their generation are why. All this government can do is to tell young people to get a good job that pays good money, and then it takes action to slash the wages of the jobs that young people do have.

One of my constituents even told me he believed the government has a vendetta against his generation. Young people think Malcolm Turnbull is so unkind that he would deliberately try to make life harder for them. Who could blame them, when the Prime Minister continues to look to their support structures to prop up big business and investors, who are proposed to get generous corporate tax cuts? Instead of looking at the generous benefits extended to the top end of town, he looks at how he can gouge money from the bottom, from those already struggling under the weight of the mess that has been created. In my electorate, one in seven workers are facing a cut of up to $77 per week. That is more than 10,600 people who will be worse off because the government thinks their time with families is not valuable enough to earn them penalty rates.

Another one of my constituents shared with me her story from when her husband was working weekends just to make ends meet. For a young couple with a small child, the penalty rates he received for working every Sunday meant the difference in them being able to pay the bills and put food on the table. She said it saved them from having to turn to services such as the Salvation Army, and she rightly pointed out the pressure that will be put on these services when families such as theirs can no longer rely on their penalty rate income to pay the costs of living. This was not a choice they made because they did not care about time with their family on the weekend; it was something they were forced to do to survive, something they felt lucky to be able to rely on, and they were unsure what they would have done otherwise. For those who are already at risk, relying on penalty rates and paying the price of time away from their families is what helps them meet their weekly budget. To cut this from them is to attack their capacity to provide for their families.

I note that the member before was talking about the importance of small business. I reiterate and confirm my recognition of the importance of small business in my electorate, and I tell you what: a lot of their customers are the very people we are talking about, who are going to see their disposable income significantly cut from these decisions.