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08 January 2015
by Peter Wicks

If you are one of the hundreds of thousands of workers returning to work from holidays, here’s a couple of questions.

At least I have a job

What price do you put on your weekend and holidays? What price do you put on your kids future?

There are some within our community that put a very small price-tag on your time and your family. These people not only put such a low value on these things that are so important to us all they are intent on devaluing it even further.

The people I’m referring to are those that are pushing the Abbott government to scrap penalty rates.

For some struggling families penalty rates provide a means of keeping a roof over their families head and putting food on the table each day. With the cost of living skyrocketing, many parents, particularly single parents with the burden of the ridiculous cost of childcare and single-income parents are finding themselves forced into the position of having to work overtime just to make ends meet.

Under an Abbott government that was supposed to create a million new jobs we are instead facing record unemployment rates that we haven’t come close to since the last Coalition government when Abbott was Employment Minister, a crisis that seems to be worsening. However underemployment is also a huge issue, people forced into casual positions by employers trying to maximise profits by cutting down costs like sick leave, holiday leave, and long service leave. The great employment train the country had been riding of record low unemployment levels left the rails as Labor left The Lodge.

Those who are seeking to scrap penalty rates want us to think that doing so would solve the unemployment crisis we are in.

The simple fact is that between the two Coalition governments with the massive unemployment levels there was no change to penalty rates at all. Despite the penalty rates remaining intact a Labor government managed to secure high rates of employment even through a Global Financial Crisis. They did this through a hung parliament by a complicated scheme that Tony Abbott can only dream of, it is a scheme known as “Effective Government”.

Another thing that will undoubtedly skyrocket if the Coalition have their way is university fees.

For those students that don’t have daddies trust fund to rely on tertiary education costs not covered by Austudy or Youth Allowance are usually paid for using casual employment be it in a factory, a hotel, a restaurant, or a supermarket. Casual employment is often a vital means of getting by whilst studying for a degree.

Any changes to the penalty rates will have an immediate impact on the ability of tens of thousands of students relying on them to have time to dedicate to studying, as eating and paying rent will become understandable priorities rather than study.

So who does want changes to the penalty rates then?

Unsurprisingly according to a recent Fairfax report leading the charge are some of the Liberal Party’s biggest supporters.

The Abbott government has launched a review of current industrial relations policy via the Productivity Commission, despite WorkChoices being “dead, buried and cremated”.

The Fair Work Commission is currently reviewing employer submissions regarding penalty rates and needless to say the submission aren’t promoting increases.

Brickworks managing director Lindsay Partridge was apparently keen to let FWC how tough it is having to pay penalty rates and continue to compete with overseas companies in the masonry industry. Maybe those companies he competes with don’t donate hundreds of thousands of dollars to political party’s though. Rather than paying workers a decent wage Partridge seems more intent on sending rivers of gravy and cash through to Liberal Party coffers.

Abbott showed his support by doing a presser at the Brickworks factory, and emails showed Peta Credlin seeking to have him plugged on the floor of parliament. Manchurian Candidate anyone?

Those familiar with the ICAC hearings in NSW may recognise Partridge and Brickworks from the allegations of illegal political donations from the company to the NSW Liberals being funnelled and laundered through the Liberal Party national office.

Another company name familiar to those following ICAC is the Hotels Association.

The Australian Hotels Association has also made a submission to FWC on penalty rates. The Hotels Association acts on behalf of hotels around the country, who clearly have to pay penalty rates to service staff.

A massive owner of these hotels is Woolworths who like to sponsor political events, and donate items for auction as they did at the infamous function where Alan Jones made a disgraceful reference to Julia Gillard’s father. Woolworths are one of the largest owners of poker machines in Australia, an industry that relies on problem gambling and the disposable income that penalty rates provide.

Coincidentally the Former NSW Chief Of The Australian Hotels Association was none other than Paul Nicolaou who also headed the Millennium Forum which was the Liberal Party’s fund raising arm.

Nicolaou was dragged in and out of ICAC repeatedly as a key figure in the alleged laundering of illegal donations to the NSW Liberal Party that saw ten Liberal MP’s resign from the Party and was one of he reasons that finally saw a sitting Liberal Premier, Barry O’Farrell, fall on his sword and stand down after one too many ICAC revelations.

Another employer named as making a submission against the struggling workers penalty rates is Clubs Australia.

Things must be tough for the Clubs that found enough spare cash, approximately $20 Million, to fund a lengthy campaign against changes to the laws regarding poker machines. A campaign that was run against the Labor Party and its MP’s in a campaign that saw sitting MP’s attacked in personal campaigns in pubs and clubs in their own electorate.

I don’t suppose the Liberal’s owe these guys any favors?