Housing affordability and penalty rates

Ms HUTCHINS (Minister for Local Government) — Speaker, I take the opportunity to congratulate you on your election as Speaker. You are doing an awesome job so far.

I rise to talk about the matter of public importance (MPI) that has been put before the house by the member for Werribee. I particularly want to focus my comments in and around point 2 of the MPI, which talks about the Victorian government helping Victorians to own their home. I also want to focus on the recent decision by the Fair Work Commission which, with the support of the federal government, cut penalty rates and on the impact that those penalty rate cuts will have on Victoria’s lowest paid workers, our award-reliant workers — women, particularly young women, and workers in regional Victoria.

It is very pertinent today, being International Women’s Day, that we acknowledge how these cuts by the Fair Work Commission, supported by the federal government and supported by those opposite, will disproportionately affect and have a negative impact on women in this state. It is very timely because just yesterday the opposition did everything they could to avoid hearing the truth on this matter. They tried every procedural trick in the book to avoid giving their actual views on penalty rates — —

Mr Clark — On a point of order, Speaker, the honourable member is making imputations in breach of standing order 118 by criticising me for taking the points of order to which she refers and implicitly criticising you for upholding those points of order. It is an imputation on both of us for the honourable member to suggest that there was something improper in either me taking those points of order or you upholding them, and I ask you to caution the minister not to engage in imputations either against the Chair or against any other honourable member.

Ms HUTCHINS — If any imputation was made, Speaker, I withdraw it, but I was talking in general terms.

I know that this is an important issue to those on this side of the house. It is something that those on the other side of the house continue to laugh at — the wages of the most vulnerable workers in this state, in particular those working women who are going to be affected. It will not go away, because every Sunday more than 210 000 Victorians go to work, the majority of them in the retail sector, in accommodation, in food, in fast food and in cafes. Those who do not draw their wages and conditions from an enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA) will soon see their penalty rates cut by a minimum of $72 in retail and possibly much more for many others.

For now I would like to put on the record the alternative policies that have been put before this house.

Mr Katos — Speaker, I direct your attention to the state of the house.

Quorum formed.

Ms HUTCHINS — As I was saying before the call for a quorum, I would like to put on the record the alternative policies before Victorians. On 1 March the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition held a press conference here, and they were asked by a young journalist if they supported the cuts to penalty rates. This was the exchange, and I quote:

Hodgett: Oh, look, I support, personally I support the federal government’s changes to penalty rates.

Journalist: Well, isn’t that cutting people’s pay on weekends?

Hodgett: I don’t think they’re as bad as Bill Shorten is, ah, is making out. He’s playing politics with that. That’s a matter for the Feds. Personally I don’t have a concern with the changes to the penalty rates —

said the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.

I have got to say that it was all brought to a head for me after I visited Westfield Doncaster only last week and talked with some young retail workers who are on the front line every Sunday and who so much rely on their penalty rates as part of their weekly earnings. They told me of the pressures on them as young workers — —

Mr R. Smith — On a point of order, Speaker, could the minister just remind us who set up the Fair Work Commission inquiry and who appointed the commissioners? Who was that?

The SPEAKER — Order! There is no point of order. The member for Warrandyte will resume his seat. Do you have a different point of order, member for Eltham?

Ms Ward — No, I do not have a point of order. I would just like the opposition to stop incessantly interrupting women and let them speak.

The SPEAKER — Order! There is no point of order.

Ms HUTCHINS — I do not think anyone was surprised, though, when the Liberal Party supported cutting penalty rates. We know that they all line up behind Malcolm Turnbull, and they have not lifted a finger to make a public comment in support of penalty rates.

Mr Watt — On a point of order, Speaker, the minister is acutely aware of the fact that she should not be reading her speech. It is very obvious to me as a member of this house who has actually been over to the table and seen the member reading directly from her speech that the minister has been reading her speech, and I ask you to get her to table the speech rather than actually read it as she is now. The minister has been in this chamber long enough to know that she should not be reading her speech. She should be giving her speech without reading the document. She knows it, and you know it. We all know it. We have all been around long enough to know that she should not be reading her speech. She should be actually giving a speech that she is not reading from. I call on you to get her to either sit down and hand over her speech or deliver a speech that she is not reading.

Ms Ward — On the point of order, Speaker, it never ceases to amaze me how every time a woman gets up on this side of the house there are those opposite who continue to interrupt them, waste their time and stop them from being able to speak.

The SPEAKER — Order! On the point of order, I ask the minister if she was reading from her speech.

Ms HUTCHINS — No, I was referring to notes, particularly when I was quoting.

The SPEAKER — Order! The minister, to continue.

Ms HUTCHINS — Thank you, Speaker. There is a further quote in my notes that I would like to refer to — —

Mr R. Smith — On a point of order, Speaker, the minister just said that she was referring to her notes, particularly when she was quoting. I would ask her to make available to the house the bit that she was quoting — that she just told the house she was quoting — as per the forms of the Parliament.

The SPEAKER — Order! I am advised that when people provide quotes and their sources to the Parliament it is usually done after the contribution is made.

Ms HUTCHINS — We saw complete backflipping and spineless, gutless action by those opposite. We saw the Leader of the Opposition rush out the very next day after his deputy had been quite up-front about their real views on cuts to penalty rates and make the statement that:

The decision by Fair Work was not an expected one, and one which has surprised many people.

Mr T. Smith — On a point of order, Speaker, how many times does this minister have to come in here and read a speech? She is reading a speech. She is seemingly incapable of making remarks off the cuff. You are going to have to go and practise this a bit better next time, Minister.

The SPEAKER — Order! I have already asked the minister if she is reading a speech. She has indicated that she is referring to notes.

Ms HUTCHINS — The Leader of the Opposition continued:

The opposition does not support the principle of people’s wages being cut and would not factor this into state EBA agreements such as the police EBA.

Here we go! So it is okay for retail workers, hospitality workers and fast-food workers — all industries whose workforces are dominated by women — to lose $72 and more on a weekly basis. These guys have nothing to say about it. Not one of them is talking about cutting wages. Not one of them is standing up for people in Victoria who work weekends and who deserve to have protection and compensation for working Sundays or public holidays. They were absolutely silent in the process of the Fair Work Commission. We put our submission in; we put our arguments up. It is unfortunate that the Fair Work Commission decided to shun that submission.

Honourable members interjecting.

The SPEAKER — Order! The member for Eltham!

Ms HUTCHINS — In fact I would go so far as to question the alliances between the Fair Work Commission and the federal government and where those lines stop on this matter.

Honourable members interjecting.

The SPEAKER — Order! Members will come to order.

Mr M. O’Brien — On a point of order, Speaker, under standing orders it is improper for a member to reflect on members of the judiciary. My understanding is that the full bench of the Fair Work Commission includes judicial members, including Justice Iain Ross, the very good friend of the Minister for Industrial Relations. I would ask you, Speaker, to counsel the minister to not reflect on judicial members as it is completely contrary to standing orders, not to mention being completely hypocritical in her personal circumstances.

Mr R. Smith — On the point of order of the member for Malvern, Speaker, maybe she misspoke.

The SPEAKER — Order! It is disorderly to reflect on members of the judiciary, but I ask the minister to continue.

Ms HUTCHINS — Thank you, Speaker. Of course we know that at the end of this month the commission will announce part 2 of the decisions on penalty rates; there is more to come. I implore them to really seriously consider how much they cut the rates of pay in regard to the hair and beauty industry, and also the restaurant industry. More workers face their take-home pay being cut at the end of this month and with the implementation of these changes on 1 July this year.

The commission found that they had insufficient evidence to make a determination, so they are looking for more information. Maybe those opposite might want to put their concerns on the record and find their voice to stand up and speak on behalf of weekend workers here in Victoria. The Andrews government has already put its position on the record. Will the Liberal Party do the same?