Consideration in Detail – Fair Work Amendment (Repeal of 4 Yearly Reviews and Other Measures) Bill 2017

Monday, 19 June 2017

Mr PITT (HinklerAssistant Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment) (18:21): Thank you for the unexpected opportunity, Mr Speaker. We are of course here because of another Labor stunt. We are here to talk about exactly what we want to talk about—that is, delivering for the people we represent in our area. As the member for Hinkler, I have to tell you that we recognise that the Fair Work Commission is independent. That is what the businesses in my electorate say to me. It is either independent or it is not. So I say to those opposite, given that in government Labor appointed the commissioners who made the decision: do you back the people you put in place? That is the question for them. Clearly, they do not trust their own appointments.

But we really need to look at the absolute heart of this matter, and that is whether the small businesses in my electorate and other electorates around this country can actually afford to open and employ local people. When we look at the comparisons, it is pretty straightforward. A mum and dad small business, if they are open, they are doing this work with their family and, if they are not, I would suggest that there is the potential that they are doing the wrong thing and they are taking cash and splitting cash amongst the people who come in. I think that is fundamentally wrong and they should not be put in that position. The reason for that is pretty straightforward: they are out there competing with big business—big business who have done deals—and there are very simple examples. If we look at a comparison of a coffee shop in my electorate, they are out there competing with McDonald’s. The difference between them and McDonald’s is some $8 an hour on a Sunday. Those on this side of the House who have actually been in small business know the worry experienced about having to pay the rates and their wages every single payday. I know that it is has kept me awake of a night time on many occasions. I had a very simple view in business: we pay our people first, our bills second and ourselves last. I think that is a great concept to take into business. It is the way to ensure that you have longevity.

But we are here talking about the amendments from those opposite. We want those mum and dad businesses to be in operation on a Sunday, out there providing their services, particularly to tourists in this country. As the Assistant Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, I can say that tourism is the absolute booming, shining star of our economy, along with agriculture. We are going incredibly well in tourism, but we need to provide the services that tourists require—

Mr Brendan O’Connor interjecting

 Mr PITT: I hear an interjection about the exchange rate—and I acknowledge that. The exchange rate of course influences whether people come here. But they absolutely will not come to this country if the services they come to see and the services they expect to be provided, regardless of the day of the week, are not open. In my electorate, where the unemployment level is unacceptably high, we need to be able to provide more opportunities, particularly for our youth. I have a youth unemployment rate of some 24 per cent. That is unacceptable to me, it is unacceptable to the people I represent and, as a parent, I can tell you that it is unacceptable to most parents in my electorate. If there is an opportunity here to ensure that these businesses are open and that they are providing employment opportunities for the youth in our region, it absolutely should be supported.

We intend to make sure that happens. As I have stated, the Fair Work Commission is independent. They have made an independent decision which, in my view, is in the best interests of those people trying to be open and competing with those who have done big deals with big unions to ensure that they are open. To be absolutely competitive with McDonald’s or KFC they need to be paying rates which are close to or equivalent to what their competitors are paying. That is the nature of business.

Our tourism numbers are going up and we need to ensure that our businesses are open. In fact, there are some substantial improvements around our tourism numbers—double-digit growth from countries like China, Japan, the United States and others. So we want to build the economy. To do that, we need to bring in more tourists and, of course, more investment.

Can I just say, as an aside, that agriculture in recent days has announced a record production—some $62 billion. That has never happened before at the farm gate. I congratulate our producers and our small businesses, who are out there doing the hard work. Congratulations to them on record production for agriculture in this country at the farm gate. That, of course, means an increase in exports and an increase in money into our economy. It means that all our agricultural producers are going absolutely incredibly well.

In my electorate, a thing that we consider to be important is that businesses are open; a thing that we consider to be important is the business of employing local people; and a thing that we consider to be important is that they are actually getting paid. There is a fundamental of mathematics, and it is this: two times nothing is still nothing. If you are not open on a Sunday then you are not employed. We want to ensure that those people have those opportunities right now in these businesses around hospitality, pharmacy and others.

I have a tourism based electorate. Our economy relies on it and we require those businesses to be open and employing local people.

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