Bill Shorten will have to wait three weeks at least before he can introduce legislation that seeks to overturn an independent tribunal’s ruling that aligns Sunday and Saturday penalty rates for hundreds of thousands of workers.
The Turnbull government on Monday headed off the opposition leader’s attempt to table a private bill and have it debated in the lower house.
“Today I’m offering the prime minister the chance to work with us to protect penalty rates and take-home pay of hard-working Australians,” Mr Shorten told parliament.
“I know the government is busy worrying about each other but Labor is here because we are concerned about the conditions of up to 700,000 of our fellow Australians.”
Mr Shorten described his move as a chance for Malcolm Turnbull to show some leadership, arguing there was no fence the government can sit on.
“A decision to not remedy this decision of the Fair Work Commission is a decision to support it,” he said.
Mr Turnbull hit back, labelling the stunt as “gold-plated hypocrisy” and noting the commissioners who made the decision had been appointed by Labor.
As well Mr Shorten, as minister at the time, helped establish references for a review of penalty rates in the hospitality and retail sectors.
“He knew very well that there is a trade off between the level of penalty rates and the level of the availability of jobs on weekends,” Mr Turnbull said.
Citing Mr Shorten’s pledge last year to accept the independence of the commission and its decision, Mr Turnbull accused the Labor leader of saying anything to suit his purpose.
Earlier, Treasurer Scott Morrison questioned what Mr Shorten was considering next.
“He doesn’t like what the Reserve Bank decides on interest rates and he decides he wants to legislate and change that?” he told Ray Hadley on 2GB radio.
Unions have called on all politicians to join them in their fight to protect workers’ pay.
The Greens have their own plans for legislation to protect penalty rates.