MP calls out hospitality industry on penalty rates after official didn't answer his Saturday calls

Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Victorian MP Kelvin Thomson announced his retirement from federal politics this week, and will step down at the next election after 20 years in parliament.

But a letter he sent last month to the boss of the restaurant industry’s peak body, which is currently being passed around hospitality workers, may be the thing the former parliamentary secretary for trade will be best remembered for.

As the debate over abolishing weekend penalty rates for people working in hospitality and retail ramped up in recent months, Restaurant and Catering Australia (RCA) CEO John Hart was busy lobbying the MP for Wills and other politicians, writing to them about getting rid of weekend penalty rates.

Thomson wrote back to Hart – who also was chair of former treasurer Joe Hockey’s controversial fundraising group the North Sydney Forum – disputing the RCA’s arguments in favour of getting rid of Sunday rates.

The MP argued that getting rid of penalty rates would reduce the spending power of workers and that many young people he talked to weren’t even getting the penalty rates they were entitled to.

The Fair Work Commission is currently conducting a review of penalty rates in the hospitality and retail sectors, but picking up on the arguments put forward by Hart on behalf of the industry, Thomson referred to RCA’s argument that penalty rates should be changed to meet community expectations.

Then the MP moved in for the kill, pointing out the shortcoming in the RCA’s argument.

Here’s what Thomson wrote:

“The letter gave me the phone number of your Public Affairs Manager and invited me to contact him to discuss these issues and your Association’s campaign. So I did. I rang last Saturday, and again on Sunday, but there was no answer.

“Perhaps there is still some magic left in Saturdays and Sundays after all.”

The MP’s full letter is below.

The letter to John Hart from Labor MP Kelvin Thomson

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