Mrs PHILLIPS (Gilmore) (17:33): In my electorate of Gilmore on the South Coast of New South Wales, we have a youth unemployment rate of 18.7 per cent. That is the highest rate in New South Wales and the third-highest in the country. Under this government, we have the lowest workforce participation rate in Australia at just 47 per cent. Our numbers of part-time workers are above the national average and the number of full-time workers is below it.
The median weekly income for people is just $535 a week. I am always hearing from members of my community who tell me how they are struggling with bills, with food, with medical bills—people who have all but given up. But this government is not doing anything to address this. When the government voted to slash Sunday and public holiday penalty rates in 2017, hitting the back pockets of 11,934 people in Gilmore, my predecessor Ann Sudmalis, told young people it was a gift. She told young people who were losing out that the cuts to penalty rates wouldn't cut wages but, rather, would open the door to more jobs. She told those in my electorate who were struggling to pay their bills and giving up time with their families on a Sunday that the cut to their penalty rates was 'a gift for our young people to get a foot in the door of employment'. This is what this government has been saying, but we know now that this has been no gift.
After that first cut came a second, in July 2018, for those in the retail and hospitality industries. We were told that that would lead to an expansion in employment. We were told it would mean new jobs and longer hours for those people who were underemployed. Two years on, the Australia Institute has found that employment growth in retail and hospitality has been far slower than in other parts of the economy where penalty rates remain constant. It found that job growth in these two sectors actually slowed by more than half after penalty rates began to fall. That is some gift!
According to the Australia Institute, all of the new jobs created in the retail and broad hospitality sector were part-time. In fact, both sectors reduced the amount of full-time work after this government's penalty rate cuts. At a time when the people of the South Coast are struggling—with wage growth stagnating, with the rate of Newstart so low that the cost of looking for work is higher, with rampant wage theft and with a stagnant economy—we are seeing job creation in these two sectors deteriorate.
Even the Reserve Bank has been trying to tell this government that we need increased wages. Only last month Reserve Bank Governor Philip Lowe said that we need to increase public and private sector wages. We need higher wages, not lower wages, to encourage increased consumer spending to stimulate the economy and to help our local shops. Instead, the government want to make more cuts. This time they are attacking the lowest-paid tradies in the country—hairstylists. This will mean a $90.80 per week loss for many of the 332 hairstylists in Gilmore. This is a cut they simply cannot afford. Many local people in my electorate have no choice but to go to work on public holidays and weekends. They have to so that they can put food on the table and pay their bills. They deserve their penalty rates.
At the recent election Labor wanted to reverse those cuts. We wanted to invest in workers and support them to look for and keep work. I'm committed to make sure that my local community have the support that they need. I have been listening to their stories of hardship and struggle. I call on this government to do more to improve the conditions for Australian workers. Workers desperately need a wage increase to kickstart the economy. This government needs to develop a comprehensive plan to boost wages and improve job security, and it should start by restoring penalty rates. The government needs to stop this latest attack on hairdressers. It needs to stand up for workers across Australia. I will always stand up for workers on the South Coast.
There is nothing in the budget that will address these issues and help the people of the South Coast who are struggling. There is nothing to address wage theft and there is nothing to address wage growth. I ask the Attorney-General: what are you doing to address these issues? What will you do to lift the workforce participation rate for people in Batemans Bay? How do you plan to address the youth unemployment rate in Nowra? What will you do to make sure that people in Moruya can get a job? We need a plan now.