PAUL and Kate Kent’s bakery and café in Camperdown yesterday became part of a national debate about weekend penalty rates.
The Kents’ decision to stop Sunday trading at their Loaf and Lounge business because penalty rates made it unviable was one of the examples cited by member for Wannon Dan Tehan in his call yesterday for a rethink on penalty rates in Australia.
His call reignited a national debate on the issue, being picked up by media throughout Australia and supported by a number of other regional Liberal MPs.
Mr Tehan said the high cost of penalty rates “was covering the country in ghost towns on a Sunday”.
Penalty rates were causing “an ever-growing casualty list including workers, businesses and local communities,” he said.
They were based on last- century rationale when men were often the sole household breadwinner and weekends were sacrosanct, Mr Tehan said. Society had since changed and business and unions needed to “meet in the middle” to ensure penalty rates did not endanger the nation’s future growth.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) said the plan by some Liberal MPs “to attack penalty rates for dedicated workers in rural and regional Australia will hurt some of the country’s most vulnerable”.
ACTU president Ged Kearney said attempts to link penalty rates to unemployment was ill-founded and there was no evidence that businesses were closing down as a result of having to pay workers fair penalty rates.
“In fact, slashing workers’ pay packets would mean there’s less disposable income in rural and regional towns to spend in local shops,” Ms Kearney said.
Back in Camperdown, Mr Kent said the bakery had traded seven days a week for eight years until December, when it closed on Sundays because penalty rates had made trading too expensive.
He said he was aware that some businesses reached “underground” arrangements with their staff about working times that attracted penalty rates but he was unwilling to break the law.
He said he had a loyal staff who deserved to be rewarded for their efforts but the cost of providing table service on Sundays had “blown out our operating costs”.
He and his wife were unwilling to work Sundays themselves because they had a young family and wanted to spend time with their children.