I too rise to take note of the answers given. I want to start off by reflecting on the fact that penalty rates are based on a wage, the wage that is set and the percentages on top of that, but the starting point, surely, therefore is that you have to have a job in order to have a wage. One of the things that is really important for this chamber to remember, as we debate, this week, legislation looking at the implementation of some of the government’s policies, is that the government’s policies, in terms of engaging and encouraging business to create jobs and to invest in their workplaces, have been working.
At the start of this year, we were able to reflect on 2017 and see that the government’s policies had set the environment where jobs growth across the nation was over 403,000, the majority—around three-quarters—of which were full-time jobs. In December alone, some 34,700 jobs were created. Contrast that with those opposite in their last year of government. They created only 89,000 jobs. Well, they didn’t create them, but their policies put a lid on business’s willingness to invest in their workforce and their workplaces such that only 89,000 jobs were created, and the majority of those were part time. Under this government’s policy settings, the confidence of business has been such that they are employing, and the participation rate is now the highest it’s been in seven years. In fact, since September 2013, over 950,000 jobs have been created. I think back to the promise made by then-Prime Minister Abbott of the target of the coalition in terms of jobs, and we’re getting pretty close to the target he set in terms of the number of jobs created.
The starting point, when we talk about people working and receiving a wage or penalty rates, is that they need jobs. As people in this chamber consider whether or not they will support government policies, they should keep in mind what we have achieved since 2013, what we achieved just last year and what we achieved in the last month of last year and compare that to the policies and approaches of those opposite and the outcomes for Australia. What is important, if we’re going to create jobs, is that businesses are competitive, and they need to be competitive for two things: they need to be competitive for capital—for the ability to attract funds to invest in the business, to recapitalise, to grow, to create opportunity and to pay more to attract workers to their business—and they need to be competitive for customers. If businesses price themselves out of the market, customers will go elsewhere, and we see that in Australia. We see that in the restaurant trade, for example, when businesses can’t open on the weekend necessarily because they are not making money, when business owners can’t employ staff and run the businesses themselves and when customers say, ‘The prices are too high; we don’t like the surcharges you’re having to put on to cover penalty rates,’ and choose to go elsewhere. So businesses need to be competitive, and that brings us back to things like the taxation policy that we are debating at the moment, which is going to be good for Australians because it creates the investment and it creates the opportunities for businesses to grow more jobs, to give people that starting point and to pay them more.
When it comes to the penalty rates discussion, it’s important to understand that the Fair Work Commission is there to provide independent arbitration around getting the balance right between the needs of workers and the needs of businesses in the economy at the time. People listening to this debate, when they hear the Labor Party going on about this, should remember that it was the Labor Party who set up the Fair Work Commission. It’s the Labor Party who didn’t object to rulings of the Fair Work Commission at times in the past but are objecting now because it’s politically opportune for them to do so. If they were consistent—and we had members opposite in this debate today talk about the fast food industry—they would look at some of the outcomes that have been delivered for workers in the fast food industry as a result of agreements that were negotiated by the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Shorten. This government is the government that is creating opportunity, jobs and, eventually, higher wages for people. (Time expired)