Parliament should reject calls for the overturning of yesterday’s Fair Work Commission decision on penalty rates, respect the integrity of the Commission’s decision making and avoid compromising the Commission’s independence in pursuit of short-term political advantage, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry said today.
Scott Barklamb, Workplace Relations Policy Director at the Australian Chamber, said: “The Commission found that reducing some penalty rates will deliver more jobs, increase hours available to the underemployed, and increase services for communities across Australia.
“These benefits will be put at risk if politicians attempt to meddle with the decision.
“The Fair Work Commission’s 550-page decision on penalty rates followed two years of rigorous assessment, 140 witnesses, and more than 28,000 paragraphs of transcript. This was one of the most extensive evidentiary cases in the Commission’s 113-year history. It would be absurd and damaging for anyone to seek to overturn this ruling in pursuit of perceived political advantage.
“The Commission rightly found that existing Sunday and public holiday penalty rates in hospitality, retail and pharmacy businesses were not ‘promot[ing] national economic prosperity and social inclusion for all Australians’, which is the fundamental objective of our workplace relations system.
“Australia has established an industrial umpire to determine significant employment conditions such as minimum wages and penalty rates, independent of the Parliament.
“This allows the Fair Work Commission to make decisions that are in the national interest rather than motivated by political considerations. Any attempt to legislate to alter the penalty rates decision would put the Commission’s independence at risk.
“Both sides of politics have previously expressed support for the independence of the Commission in setting minimum wages and penalty rates.
“Employment Minister Michaelia Cash yesterday emphasised that ‘the setting of penalty rates are a matter for the independent Fair Work Commission to determine, not Government’.
“As Workplace Relations Minister in 2012, Bill Shorten spoke glowingly of ‘the tradition of an independent industrial umpire for our great nation – a notion that goes to the heart of the Australian ethic of a fair go’.
“We urge all parties to stand by their commitments to an independent industrial umpire. Fair-weather friends of our national industrial relations umpire need to be called out. A genuine commitment to an independent industrial umpire means respecting its decisions in setting minimum pay and conditions and respecting its weighing of the evidence.”