Who do you reckon is more worthy of a pay rise?
1. A well-paid Federal politician, with all sorts of lurks and perks, whose last big pay rise was last year? Or…
2. A single mum working a Sunday shift to pay her bills?
Most of us, who aren’t complete bastards, would say no 2. But not Canberra.
It was the pollies who got the rise this month – even a backbencher now gets more than $200,000 a year. And a tax cut, too. How nice.
So, how’s that single mum on the Sunday shift doing?
Well, on top of helping to fund the pollie pay rise, she's had a big reduction in her pay – thousands of dollars.
Believe it or not, the same MPs grabbing a pay rise for themselves have slashed penalty rates for some of the nation’s lowest paid workers in retail, hospitality and fast food sectors.
That’s obscene, and shows why we are different. Because you and I would want to hide our faces in shame at doing such a grubby thing, but our government ministers not only strut around with a grin but give us lectures on Australian “values”.
Some of the more conservative pollies argue that Sundays don’t really exist anymore and weekends are anachronistic. We now live in a 24/7 world. I wondered if local MP Angus Taylor – a minister in the government that just belted weekend workers – felt the same, so I rang his office on Saturday and Sunday, but only got a recorded message. Closed for the weekend, it seems.
Our invertebrate government has said both decisions are out of its hands: It was the Remuneration Tribunal that approved the pollie pay rises, and the Fair Work Commission that approved the cuts to penalty rates. Make no mistake, if the government wanted to overturn both decisions, it could have – but it has to want to. It didn’t.
Of course, the government argues that penalty rate cuts will “create jobs” because small businesses will be encouraged to hire more staff.
Will they? Many of the (better) small businesspeople I've spoken to tell me they won't be passing on the cuts, because they can’t look their loyal, hard-working staff in eye and do it. But the government is really looking after the big retail giants who will happily cut wages.
The widening gap between rich and poor is now at crisis point.
But here's the big question: What will the government do if a business happily cuts penalty rates, but then fails to hire more staff as a result? A big fat nothing, I suspect.
This is ‘trickle-down’ economics, and we all know how that turns out. Everyone, from Oxfam to the OECD, has warned Australia about its widening gap between rich and poor. It’s a crisis.
But instead of throwing water on the fire, this government has grabbed a petrol can – while again lecturing us on “Australian values”.
Here’s some “values” presently supported by Canberra in the Land of the Fair Go:
a) Pollies are enjoying fat pay rises at the same time as they hand the nation’s battlers big pay reductions.
b) It is easier for an investor to buy a 10th home than it is for a young married couple buy their first home.
c) There are harbourside billionaires and multinational corporations paying less tax than battling families and shift workers in Macarthur.
d) Wage growth in Australia is at record lows – yet our council rates, road tolls and electricity bills go through the roof.
And the result of all this? Well, as local families are forced to tighten their budgets, the obvious victims of that belt tightening will be local small businesses – particularly in the retail, hospitality and fast food sectors.
Wouldn’t it be better for the economy if everyone was looked after, not just the rich?