It is always a pleasure, and it seems to be a regular occurrence, that I get to follow my colleague Senator Polley on various debates in this chamber. I am pleased to once again have that opportunity and to contribute to the motion to take note of the answer given by Senator Brandis on the issue of penalty rates. I think most of the points that Senator Williams made are absolutely salient to this debate. The facts are that Labor created the Fair Work Commission, Labor appointed the commissioners and, indeed, Labor said they would abide by the decision. It was a point that was made by the Attorney in his answer today. We can all recall that radio interview by the opposition leader, Mr Bill Shorten. When quizzed repeatedly as to whether or not the Labor Party would accept the outcome, the final decision, of the Fair Work Commission when it came to penalty rates, repeatedly he said yes. But now we find ourselves in a situation where that is not the case. You have to remember that when we consider this issue and the points that have been made by those opposite.
I think it is important, though, to talk about what actually creates jobs, improves employment conditions and increases people’s earning capacity. We have talked about small business in this debate a lot. Senator Polley made a couple of comments during question time today, by way of interjection, in relation to small businesses. Senator Polley referred to those people who will be the recipients of the benefits of the enterprise tax plan as ‘millionaires’. I would not make the argument that people who run small businesses are millionaires. I would not argue either, as Senator Polley did, that those people will keep the benefits of the enterprise tax plan for themselves and just pocket them. I do not agree with that. That is what Senator Polley thinks they will do, but I do not agree.
I would love to take Senator Polley down to a small business. We could go together to one of those nice cafes in Evandale and talk about penalty rates. In fact I might extend an invitation to her next week when we are down in town. We can talk to the proprietor of that cafe about how penalty rates affect their business and how they might close because people do not want to pay the surcharge. That was the point that the proprietor of a cafe in Evandale made to me when I was recently there. Indeed, Senator Polley made the point that people are happy to pay that little bit extra to cover the cost of penalty rates on a Sunday or Monday, but then in the same debate Senator Polley said, ‘Those people who are working in aged care, those people who are on penalty rates, they have no money.’ You cannot have it both ways. Either people have money to spend or they do not. I think that contradiction highlights just how political this is, and that it is not a substantial debate about real issues.
The other point that Senator Williams made in his contribution was about the difference in employee pay conditions that small businesses face against those that big businesses face. To highlight the hypocrisy there, again we go through that list. Look at the family newsagent, the small business, that has to pay an employee a Sunday rate of $37.05 per hour, the award penalty rate for 2014-15, as opposed to the Officeworks Sunday rate of $30.05 an hour under the union agreement. The family greengrocer pays $37.05 per hour under the award penalty rate; Woolworths, the big multinational, pays a Sunday rate of $31.79 an hour under the union agreement. It goes on and on. Senator Williams mentioned McDonald’s, comparing that to the family owned takeaway: $29.16 per hour under the award penalty rate; $21.08 per hour under the union agreement at McDonald’s. We have to look at those facts. We have to take all of these things into account.
You cannot come in here and scream about the things that you have screamed about—injustices against workers in this country—when union agreements are delivering less for the people who are covered by them than the penalty rates that apply to those in small businesses, which cannot absorb massive increases in costs; are largely, as Senator Cameron pointed out, based in rural and regional communities; and do not have multiple outlets that can cross-subsidise one another. These are the things we have to remember when it comes to regional employment, which is something we talk about a lot in these debates. Burnie is different to Sydney. We need to protect small businesses, which create jobs in these small communities. The rates they face—those I read out—compared to those of multinationals and other large businesses demonstrate that it is all hypocrisy, froth and bubble. It is not actually about protecting jobs and supporting businesses.