The Turnbull government should protect penalty rates in the wake of a Fair Work Commission decision, most voters say.
The commission handed down a decision two weeks ago to cut penalty rates for Sunday work in the retail, hospitality, fast food and pharmacy industries.
It’s yet to decide how to implement the decision and Labor says the federal government should act to stop the cuts.
An Essential poll released on Tuesday found 56 per cent of voters disapprove of the FWC’s decision, while 32 per cent approve.
Disapproval was strongest among Labor voters, with 74 per cent against the cuts. However 36 per cent of coalition voters also disapproved.
Asked what would be the result of the cuts, 57 per cent said businesses would make bigger profits, while 24 per cent said more people would be employed.
On the issue of whether the government should legislate to protect penalty rates, 51 per cent said yes while 31 per cent said it should accept the decision.
Government frontbencher Keith Pitt, a former business owner, said the decision should stand.
“As a former small business owner, I think we should be out there supporting the mum and dad operators whether it’s in retail, pharmacy or at the local coffee shop,” Mr Pitt told Sky News on Tuesday.
“They are trying to compete with large corporate entities who have done a deal with the unions at reduced overtime rates for their workers, which make them far more competitive.
“It’s absolutely in Australia’s interests we address this.”
The poll also gave Labor a 52-47 two-party preferred lead over the Coalition.
The same poll found support for Malcolm Turnbull as the best person to lead the Liberal party has halved since he came to power.
The Essential poll found 20 per cent of voters considered Mr Turnbull to be the best person to lead the Liberals.
But this was down from 42 per cent in December 2015 after he seized the leadership from Tony Abbott, the poll published on Tuesday showed.
However, Mr Turnbull was still ahead of his rivals with Julie Bishop favoured by 17 per cent, Mr Abbott on 10 per cent, Scott Morrison, Christopher Pyne and Peter Dutton on two per cent, “someone else” with 18 per cent and “don’t know” with 28 per cent.
Among coalition voters, Mr Turnbull was favoured by 36 per cent of respondents, followed by Ms Bishop on 19 per cent and Mr Abbott on 15 per cent.
Among female voters, Ms Bishop and Mr Turnbull were equally favoured at 19 per cent.
Over the same period, Bill Shorten’s standing as preferred Labor leader lifted eight points to 21 per cent, although 35 per cent of voters did submit a “don’t know”.