A Liberal MP has broken down in tears during Question Time after a withering attack by the Labor Opposition.
Ann Sudmalis, MP for the NSW seat of Gilmore, was reduced to tears when Labor attacked her over comments she made in Monday’s Illawarra Mercury, indicating that cutting Sunday and public holiday penalty rates were a “gift to young people”.
“It’s not cutting wages, it’s opening the door for more hours of employment and in a regional area like Gilmore, with almost double the national youth unemployment, that’s a gift; that is a gift for our young people to get a foot in the door of employment,” Ms Sudmalis told the paper.
Labor leapt on the comments, attacking Ms Sudmalis for being out of touch and insensitive.
“This pay cut isn’t a gift, it’s an insult to 700,000 working Australians,” Opposition leader Bill Shorten said.
“Why does the prime minister and the Member for Gilmore support cutting penalty rates of Australians?” Labor frontbencher Stephen Jones asked.
Mr Turnbull defended his colleague, telling Parliament that Ms Sudmalis was a school teacher before she entered parliament.
“She knows the situation of young people in the electorate of Gilmore very well, and it’s very heartfelt.” he said.
Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU) also had a crack at Ms Sudmalis in a Facebook post, claiming she “did nothing” while “thousands of us have our pay slashed”.
Labor kept up its attack on the government on the issue of cuts to penalty rates for the third day running.
The Opposition’s workplace relations’ spokesman, Brendan O’Connor, asked the prime minister how many government members of the government might profit from the penalty rates decision as business owners or having shares in businesses that would benefit.
But the government kept batting it back with the justification that the decision on penalty rates was that of the Fair Work Commission, an independent body.
The government returned fire, by again highlighting Mr Shorten’s record as a union leader, alleging he had secured deals which had effectively reduced the wages of union members.
Mr Turnbull told Parliament the Labor leader — a former Australian Workers’ Union secretary — was the author of the penalty rates decision, having referred the issue to the Fair Work Commission when he was workplace minister.
“No individual in this parliament had more to do with setting up that review of modern awards and penalty rates than (Mr Shorten) … he owns it, it’s his process.”
Meanwhile, trade have threatened that a union campaign against the decision would be “widespread, long-lasting and very deep”.
“All of our research shows that even Liberal voters are very concerned about this and it could be very damaging for those liberal members sitting right now in marginal seats,” ACTU president Ged Kearney said this week.
– with AAP