Tuesday, 5 January 2016
How will Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources Barnaby Joyce & Nationals MP Kevin Hogan handle local opposition to Turnbull Government's move to lower penalty rates?
Electorates in Northern New South Wales, such as Page and New England have an long-established tourism component in their local economies.
Both full-time, part-time and casual retail and hospitality workers play a big part in the tourism industry in these rural and regional areas, so it is interesting to note that local opposition to the Turnbull Government’s less than subtle move against weekend penalty rates in the retail and hospitality sectors is obviously on the radar of local voters.
Polling in key Liberal and National Party seats shows strong opposition to reducing Sunday penalty rates for retail workers, according to new ReachTEL polling commissioned by The Australia Institute.
Polling conducted across the electorates of Page, New England, Warringah and Dickson on 17th December shows that between 65% and 79% of people in these electorates want Sunday penalty rates in the retail industry kept the same or increased.
“The research underscores the political difficulty any Government faces if they allow Sunday penalty rates to be cut,” said Ben Oquist, Executive Director of The Australia Institute.
“Furthermore the consequences for lowering Sunday penalty rates for the macro economy need to be considered. Lowering the take-home pay for many low paid employees, who are more likely to spend most of their income, could lower the amount of spending in the economy with negative flow on effects for economic growth and employment,” said Mr Oquist.
Page MP Kevin Hogan initially called these local concerns a beat up.
However, with media reporting the possibility that Page and Richmond workers losing a minimum est. $12.2 million and $11.8 million in total income respectively, this was perhaps not the wisest choice of words to use in an election year.
Given that in his own electorate 74.6 percent of all those of all those surveyed and 56 per cent of those Nationals supporters surveyed wanted penalty rates to increase or stay the same, attempting to brush aside valid concern in this way looks foolhardy to say the least.
Hogan appears to have realised this by 29 December and changed his tune when speaking to a Daily Examiner journalist: "I'm very cognisant that penalty rates are very important to many people who don't earn a lot of money….For a lot of people any extra benefit they get is very important to them. I'm yet to be sold there is an economic benefit in cutting penalty rates."
A statement that only the gullible would accept at face value, as his parliamentary voting record shows that he has never once voted against Abbott or Turnbull government legislation or spoken up strongly in the House of Representatives against their policies.
The Minister Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce, takes a different tack by saying that any changes to workplace laws including penalty rates would be taken to an election.
With 70.7 percent of all those of all those surveyed and 56.9 per cent of those Nationals supporters surveyed wanting penalty rates to increase or stay the same, he will have to work hard to convince his own electorate that reducing these rates is not going to hit the New England economy hard.
Across rural New South Wales a partial abolition of penalty rates in the retail and hospitality sectors would result in workers losing between $118.9 million p.a. and $220.0 million p.a. with a loss in disposable income of between $53.8 million p.a. and $106.2 million p.a. to local economies, according to research conducted by The McKell Institute.