Why has the Senate voted down penalty rate cuts?

Ross Greenwood speaks to Peter Strong, CEO of the Council for Small Business Australia,  about the implications for business if a Senate motion to reverse penalty rate cuts passes the lower house.

Introduction: Why has the Senate voted down penalty rate cuts?

Ross Greenwood: All right. Let’s stay with penalty rates now because remember the Senate has now voted to reverse those cuts to penalty rates that went handed there by the Fair Work Commission. It’s a strange thing because the Fair Work Commission is a body independent of government. And yet now you’ve got through the Senate, Labour and the Greens trying to get out some motions which now they’re hoping to get George Christensen to support on the House of Representative. But he’s now changed his mind. It would seem as though it’s all going roundabout.

Let’s try and get some indications as to what it could mean for business, whether it happens or not. It seems, not at this stage. The Chief Executive of the Councils of Small Business in Australia is Peter Strong.

Good day, Peter. How are you doing?

Interview with: Peter Strong, CEO, Council for Small Business Australia

Peter Strong:  I’m very good. Thank you Ross.

Ross Greenwood: Just explain the politics of it from a business point of view ’cause the Fair Work Commission is not the government. Yet you’ve got opposition, if you like, forces now sitting to try to turn over something that they’ve not even imposed themselves.

Peter Strong:  Yes, it’s extraordinary. What confidence can you have in your workplace relations system if the party that set the system up then says we don’t like the decision that the system made and they’re going to undo it through the parliament.

I noticed De la Cory said there’s no backpay issue to the Phillipe. Cpry would know. He’s very good at what he does. It was in the Ministers office half an hour ago. The Minister’s office was saying it’s not clear because and it’s not we’re looking at the legislation. The legislation says that it takes effect or refuse the effect of the decision. It’s removing the effect of the decision.

Ross Greenwood: What you’re saying is just to explain this is the Labour motion that goes through the Senate but this then got to go to the House of Representative? You’re saying the Labour, Green, motions would potentially carry some backpay issues with it?

Peter Strong:  That’s right. One of it was needed for court to decide that. I know that Doug Cameron and others have said, no. They don’t want any backpay. But they don’t make the decision. Mind you, they’re trying to make the decision, have they? It’s up to a Court. If any of the Unions go along and say, “Look, we want backpay.” The Court makes the decision. And then maybe they said, they can go back and have a vote and spend another six months arguing about that.

Ross Greenwood: But also the Fair Work Commission was the Industrial Court in the first place. But it wasn’t one that already made the decision to cut the penalty rates for which now Labor and the Greens don’t like, along with Nick Xenophon. Now they arguing against it.

Peter Strong:  That’s right. Before they make a decision from that, they ring Labour up. We’re going to make a decision this way, are you happy with that?

Ross Greenwood: I think Labor quite liked that given the fact that they appointed most of the members of the Fair Work Commission to the bench in the first place.

Peter Strong:  That’s right. Because your ordinary Labor they’d ring the Unions, they’d ring the ACTU and you say, “This is the decision we’re going to make. Are you happy now? No you’re not? Okay, we don’t make that decision.’ We’ll just do something else because it’ll just get overturned. If I could come to Nick Xenopon being really disappointing. And what happened there at the last election, the Union met and spent well over a million dollars. Probably two million dollars targeting Nick Xenophon and he said it cost him a hundred thousand votes. He was very reluctant to go and do something that would have checked that attention again.

Of course some people would say, well they are the Unions want. Because by threatening a Politician they’ve got the Politician to back down. But I’d say, not very representative these days, Unions. They don’t have a lot of members but they’ve got some money.

Ross Greenwood: And certainly got plenty of money around the place. The Chief Executive of the Councils of Small Business in Australia, Peter Strong. Many thanks for your time as always.

Peter Strong:  Thank you, Ross.

Ross Greenwood: Yes, Peter Strong there. He did mention the Labor Senator, Doug Cameron, who as you know has got a thick Scottish brogue, he really does. Doug is as thick as any of them around the place. We’re in this whole citizenship, the thing that’s come up. You might have imagined if Doug Cameron was ever going to get into trouble with citizenship, it would be because of his British Heritage. Not true. In actual fact, there’s now suggestion that Doug Cameron, with that very thick Scottish brogue, born in Scotland in fact may have some rights to Lithuanian citizenship. Can’t figure that one out. We’ve got more Money News coming up.

 

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