This debate tonight is about where we draw the line. That is the very reason that motivates me to contribute to this debate, because I sincerely and very seriously believe the line has to be drawn here tonight. We have heard from previous speakers that the number of non-trading days varies from state to state. South Australia and Western Australia have 10 days each, New South Wales and Queensland have 41/2 days, and here in Victoria we have even less. In terms of any argument about comparisons we are up there on the cutting edge of deregulation of shopping hours. Why then do we have this bill before us tonight? It really does beggar belief.
The proposal we have here tonight is a very stark proposal. It is a proposal that requires workers to work on Easter Sunday. It is a proposal that requires workers not to receive compensation for working on Easter Sunday. It is a black-and-white situation; there is not even a clause within this bill that provides for an opt-in clause — that is, where a worker can voluntarily indicate a willingness or put their hand up to work on Easter Sunday and work knowing they will not be able to receive public holiday penalty rates. This bill does not provide flexibility and does not provide for compensation.
This is not a matter of choice; there is no choice in this proposed legislation. Instead the government expects workers to reorganise their rosters if they cannot work, and this in itself indicates how out of touch the government is with retail workers. As we know, rosters tend to be a very contentious tool within the workplace.
Even during non-public holiday periods on normal weekends trying to do roster swaps is often very difficult for workers and often simply impossible. There is no choice in that sort of system. We also have situations where many workers need to talk to their immediate supervisors — the manager or owner — when it comes to these sorts of things, and there needs to be an acknowledgement that there is an unequal power relationship in having to be involved in such a level of communication to secure a roster change. In the retail industry the more you push for a roster change, the more you are putting your job and your income security at risk.
I ask again: where is the simple choice in the legislation before us tonight? There is none. But it is not only workers who will be impacted on by this bill; many businesses will also be impacted on.
We have heard that the minister in the other place believes businesses will have the choice open to them, but we know that in reality many businesses will not have a choice, particularly those in shopping centres which are subject to contractual agreements to be open when the larger stores are open. They have to deal with their business viability as well. I put it to the house that this is not a choice for many businesses.
I turn to the issue of the impact that this bill will have on families and on our community. I suspect that all of us in this house accept the fact that the pace of life has dramatically increased, even within our lifetime. We have all been involved in much longer working hours, and we have seen family members also participate in longer working hours. Unfortunately that has been the way the world has evolved. The increased pressures in our daily lives and the fight that families wage to maintain family cohesion and wellbeing is ongoing. Life is incredibly hectic for most people, particularly those in the workforce.
When you add this to the fact that we currently have only three and a half non-trading days, the requirement under this bill for people to work on Easter Sunday will put further stress on working individuals and their families.
I consider Easter to be a significant time on the calendar both for those who are of faith and for those who are not necessarily religious. Yes, Easter Sunday is a time for prayer, a time to attend church services and a time to follow traditional practices, but it is also seen by many as a time to spend with family. Many people take time to travel over this period to catch up with each other, and, like my family, many families see it as an opportunity for the extended family to spend time with each other, often enjoying outdoor activities before winter sets in.
I simply say to the house tonight that I oppose this bill as it will have a negative impact on many businesses, a negative impact on workers and a negative impact on their families and extended families. This bill is not a decent bill, it is not a fair bill and it is a very wrong bill. This bill is out of step with community norms, and the application of the bill will fail the reality test and therefore fail ordinary Victorians. I oppose the bill.