POLITICS

A Government Minister Keeps Calling Bill Shorten 'Daddy'

It's something to do with penalty rates.

28/02/2017 10:53 AM AEDT | Updated 28/02/2017 12:17 PM AEDT
Fairfax Media
Daddy?

CANBERRA -- They get creative with name-calling in the federal parliament. In recent times we've had 'Mr Harbourside Mansion' for Malcolm Turnbull, 'the Angel of Annandale' for Anthony Albanese, a "hapless set of bedwetters" for Turnbull's supporters in the coup against Tony Abbott, and the acid tongues of people like Mark Latham, Paul Keating and Peter Costello are still legendary in the halls of Canberra.

But it's not everyday you hear one politician calling a rival 'daddy'.

Tourism and trade minister Steven Ciobo has given the almost endearing nickname to Labor leader Bill Shorten in the last 24 hours, as the fight over penalty rates heats up.

Labor turned the blowtorch on the Coalition in question time on Monday, devoting every one of their questions to attacking the government over Friday's penalty rates decision by the Fair Work Commission which ruled that Sunday penalty rates in the retail, hospitality and fast food industry should be decreased.

Despite the government having absolutely nothing to do with the decision by the independent FWC, Labor has tried linking the penalty rate cut with the Coalition's planned massive tax cut for business -- "Why is this government giving big business a tax cut but doing nothing to stop workers getting a pay cut?" Shorten asked in Question Time. Labor tried to bring on a bill in parliament to protect penalty rates on Monday, but the government blocked the motion.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's response to nearly every question on the topic has been that the penalty rates review was instituted by Shorten himself in his time as workplace minister under the previous Labor government, that several of the FWC commissioners were appointed by Labor, and that the Commission itself was set up by Labor.

"Bill Shorten cannot escape the fact that he owns this decision, having set the rules, appointed the umpire and previously said he would accept its decision," said employment minister Senator Michaelia Cash.

Speaking in media interviews on Monday night and Tuesday morning, Ciobo moved to further tie Shorten to the penalty rates decision.

On RN on Monday, Ciobo again stressed how the FWC was an independent commission.

"[Shorten] is effectively the daddy of this decision," he said, criticising Shorten for previously saying he would support the decision of the FWC.

Deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek said Shorten had made the promise to support the decision because their party didn't expect the decision would be a penalty rate cut.

"Nobody ever considered the Fair Work Commission could actually bring down a decision that reduces the take home pay for some of the lowest-paid workers in the country. We're very surprised this is the decision the FWC has come to," she said on RN on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, on Sky News, he again reached for the same tool.

"Bill Shorten is a complete fraud when it comes to penalty rates. Bill Shorten is the daddy of this decision. This is the guy who actually set this body up, gave them the jurisdiction to actually look at penalty rates, said time and time and time again that he would honour the independent umpire's decision," Ciobo said.

"He set it up, he told them to look at penalty rates, he said he'd respect the decision."

Sky host Kieran Gilbert pressed Ciobo to put the politics aside for a moment and think of the hundreds of thousands of people who will lose out because of this decision. The Australian Council of Trade Unions says workers will lose an average of $6000 per year due to the penalty rates decision; that's a salient fact which has been largely brushed over by the government as they look to simply tar the opposition with claims of hypocrisy and backflipping.



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