SYDNEY -- Treasurer Scott Morrison has declared the current debate about penalty rates “boring” and has flagged targeting Senate crossbenchers for any future industrial reforms.
Momentum is building within the Coalition to change the weekend penalty rate system, while Labor and the union movement are gearing up for a fierce industrial relations fight in the lead-up to the next election.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten yesterday accused Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of giving the scrapped WorkChoices industrial regime the “kiss of life,” after the PM suggested Sunday penalty rates are outdated and Australian workplaces needed to be more flexible.
It has been the strongest indication yet that Sunday penalty rates will be wound back.
Morrison isn’t denying that industrial changes are being mooted, rather he’s attacked the quality of debate.
“In industrial relations, workplace relations in this country, for far too long it has been this pitched battle between unions and business, capital and labour,” the Treasurer told RN Breakfast.
“And frankly that is boring. And it is not helpful.
“What we need have is a mature discussion about these issues, were we look at how the system works.”
Morrison has accused Shorten, a former union leader, of dragging Australia back to yesterday’s politics.
He indicated the government will be looking beyond Labor and the Greens for support on the Senate cross-bench.
“These question is, will the broader polity, will broader politics, other parties be able to engage in the same adult discussion?” he said.
He said he was interested in proposals such as lower rates of pay compensated by tax credits.
“I think these are all very innovative ideas," Morrison said.
“We need the flexibility in our system to ensure we have this agile and innovative economy.”
“What we want is more people, particularly young people employed. We need flexibility in the system, which means people with disabilities, people who have been long term unemployed can get a go in the labour market.”
The Productivity Commission has been reviewing the Fair Work Act and has recommend in an interim report that Sunday rates for retail, hospitality and tourism workers be brought into line with Saturday rates.
It is due to deliver its final report in November.