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29 March 2017

Stop politicking on penalty rates and get the facts, says Small Business Ombudsman

The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (SBFEO) today called for a full Parliamentary inquiry into penalty rates to ensure that the Fair Work Commission’s recent decision is not dumped in the face of political scaremongering and backflips.

The Ombudsman, Kate Carnell, said the Fair Work Commission’s independent decision to scale back some penalty rates for Sunday trading was too important to be subject to a knee-jerk political campaign, which was long on emotional claims and short on the facts.

“This is too important to be left to petty politicking and flip-flopping without a full review of the potential benefits for jobs and growth in the community,” she said.

“Let’s have a Parliamentary inquiry and put all the facts on the table so the community is not sucked into senseless scare campaigns that end up selling them short by jettisoning sensible measures to grow jobs and promote growth in the small business sector.

“History shows us just how bitter and vitriolic debate about industrial relations can become and how easily facts can become distorted.

“I note the findings of an analysis undertaken by the Department of Employment that found that FWC decision would impact 2.8 per cent of the workforce – or approximately 285,000 people – as opposed to the widely reported 685,000-plus figure mistakenly used by some to politicise the debate.

“For this reason I am supportive of a Parliamentary inquiry to explore publicly and in full the basis of the FWC decision and to forensically examine the details of Enterprise Bargaining Agreements negotiated by unions and big businesses operating on Sundays and public holidays.”

The Fair Work Commission’s independent decision after a two-year review to adjust Sunday penalty rates in select industries has been subject to political attacks and calls for its decision to be overturned.

Labor has rejected the Fair Work Commission’s decision and undertaken to have it set aside. This week One Nation, the Nick Xenophon Team and Senator Derryn Hinch have reversed their previous support for the Fair Work Commission’s decision on penalty rates.

Ms Carnell said that the integrity of the industrial relations system was underpinned by the independence of the Fair Work Commission and it was vital that the setting of minimum wage rates and other terms and conditions were quarantined from political influence.

“All sides of politics acknowledge small business is the engine room of the economy, however, this should not be taken for granted and I encourage all sides of politics to keep this in mind when conducting an ongoing national conversation on this issue,” she said.

CONTACT: Kate Carnell: 0415 662 266 or Randal Markey 02 6263 1505.