HIGH-COST PENALTY RATES
Mrs ARMITAGE ( Launceston ) - I rise to support the honourable member for Western Tiers as I believe penalty rates are crippling many industries in Tasmania. All too often we hear tourists and locals alike bemoaning the fact that restaurants, hotels and other eateries are closed on weekends or public holidays. These penalty rates on many occasions simply make it impossible to open. I am sure we have all heard business owners say that the cost to open their doors is more than the business that comes through them. They also lose their leisure time for no real value, apart from presenting an open-for-business look for our state.
In this 24-hour, seven-day-a-week world we need to move with the times. We cannot implement change, and sometimes I question whether it is positive, without changing other things - for example, penalty rates. Everything has to work in conjunction and there needs to be a balance. I feel for the business owner trying his or her best to operate in this competitive market, keeping their doors open for as long as possible and trying to make a profit, at the same time endeavouring to keep their staff employed. I can speak from experience here with my husband having run his hotel for 35 years. He employs around 17 staff and opens three Sundays a month at 4 o'clock and one Sunday at 12 o'clock and on public holidays, with the exception of Christmas Day. He does that mainly to provide meals and entertainment for tourists. He said, 'There is nothing open and if you do not open people do not come back, and it is a bad image particularly for our city'.
Tasmania has a very high rate of unemployment and we should be doing everything we can to reduce this. We have an expectation that we can get a meal or shop at any time, but nothing comes without costs. In many workplaces people, particularly those working weekends, take other days in lieu. This allows businesses to open and, hopefully, be profitable. Obviously there are some days that should attract penalty rates, including Easter and Christmas. However, it is interesting to note that in the mines - and I speak from experience here as I have three sons working in the mines, fly-in fly-out as many people now choose to do - it is irrelevant what day you work. You work your 14 days or eight days, Christmas included, and it does not make any difference if you work Christmas. A day is a day and that is all there is to it. You work your rostered days and then you have your days off. Last year my son worked Christmas Day. Holidays and public holidays have no bearing at all on pay.
There is the argument that casual staff rely on penalty rates to make ends meet, however if the business in which they are employed ceases to operate they may need Centrelink to help make ends meet. I know which I would prefer. There will always be instances when extra remuneration is required, but it has to be at levels that do not make it uneconomic to open.
I will read some interesting comments on penalty rates by the federal Assistant Treasurer, David Bradbury, published in the Sydney Morning Herald on 18 September:
Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury said penalty rates reflected a community cost for those employees who worked on weekends.
They should be properly compensated for missing out on time with their families.
'They are not at the sporting events their kids are involved with, they are not spending time at home with their family', Mr Bradbury told reporters in Canberra.
'It is not unreasonable to think that there should be some compensation paid to employees for giving up time on weekends and hours outside the normal working day.'
I question what the normal working day is now. We have seven-day trading, and we have places trading 24 hours a day. Is the normal working day still nine to five, Monday to Friday? I can shop on a Sunday and for many that is a normal working day. Saturday is a normal working day. The question comes down to: what is the expectation of a normal working day? To me it is all about working together to make this once great state, great again. I am sure we can do it, but common sense must prevail.
I support the motion.