Australian Council of Trade Unions Secretary Sally McManus and General Secretary of Queensland Council of Unions Ros McLennan.
Australian Council of Trade Unions Secretary Sally McManus and General Secretary of Queensland Council of Unions Ros McLennan. Leighton Smith

Major political players debate Capricornia's penalty rates

UNION leaders and the Labor Party say the Federal Government's cut to penalty rates hasn't delivered a promised employment windfall for CQ and has led to reduced consumer spending.

Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Sally McManus blamed the cut to penalty rates as one of the factors contributing to yesterday's dismal National Accounts data.

It shows household final consumption expenditure increased just 0.4 per cent in the December quarter 2018.

"Working people need higher wages.

"Spending is slowing because people don't have anything to spend,” Ms McManus said.

"This is a product of the policies of this government. It has slashed penalty rates, opposed increases to the minimum wage and ignored the insecure work crisis.”

READ: CQ businesses discuss impact of penalty rate cuts on hiring

Ms McManus pointed to recent studies which disproved that penalty rate cuts lead to increased employment and said it was mainly large companies that profited.

"It's that idea of trickle down, that if you gave employers more they will share it either in jobs or pay rises, and that's turned out to not be the case,” she said.

"They are all big multi-nationals, they get the profits, it goes down to Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne or offshore, it doesn't come back to the community.”

Queensland Council of Unions general secretary Ros McLennan said cutting penalty rates for some of the lowest earners had a massive impact on local businesses.

"Lower paid workers struggle to make ends meet. Cost of living pressures mean they spend everything they get and if their penalty rates are cut they've got less to spend,” Ms McLennan said.

Labor's candidate for Capricornia Russell Robertson said 10,670 retail and hospitality workers in Capricornia were affected by the cut to penalty rates.

ROCKHAMPTON VISIT: Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development Anthony Albanese, Queensland Senator Murray Watt, Labor Candidate for Capricornia Russell Robertson, Rockhampton MP Barry O'Rourke.
Labor's candidate for Capricornia Russell Robertson Leighton Smith

READ: Rocky business owner's fight for worker's wages

"These are hard-working Rocky residents who rely on their penalty rates to put food on the table and petrol in the tank,” Mr Robertson said.

"Michelle Landry sat in the parliament with her LNP colleagues and voted eight times against reversing the cuts to penalty rates - she should be ashamed.

"I understand how important penalty rates are for workers - especially at a time where everything is going up except people's wages.”

Mr Robertson promised that a Labor government would reverse the cuts to penalty rates within the first 100 days of office.

A spokesperson for Ms Landry said decisions about penalty rates were not made by parliament.

Member for Capricornia, Michelle Landry, said no compulsory land aquisitions will be undertaken
Member for Capricornia Michelle Landry Trish Bowman

READ: Penalty rate debate in Capricornia after unfavourable poll

"All rates of pay are determined by the Fair Work Commission set up by the ALP under the Gillard Government,” the spokesperson said.

"The commission must work independently of government, otherwise you end up with politicians making decisions about what people should and should not get paid.

"All along, Ms Landry and the government have respected the independence of the Fair Work Commission, as did Bill Shorten until it made a decision he didn't like.”

The spokesperson said unemployment had dropped from 7.2 per cent two years ago to 6.6 per cent now in the Fitzroy and from 7.6 per cent to just 3.5 per cent in the Mackay.

"This drop is on the back of a resurgent mining sector and major public works.

"There is more to do and with the many projects Michelle Landry has delivered for the region, more jobs and a stronger economy are certainly being delivered.”