Jim Berardo... has called for action on penalty rates
Jim Berardo... has called for action on penalty rates Goeff Potter / Sunshine Coast Daily

Push to axe penalty rates to open cafes, shops longer

HOSPITALITY  workers could face losing penalty rates as part of a move to open up more restaurants and cafes in tourist hotspots during nights and long weekends.

The Federal Government has asked the Fair Work Commission to examine penalty rates as part of its four-year review of the award wage system.

Tony Abbott has denied the Coalition is trying to have wages cut, but the Opposition thinks otherwise.

The issue has come to a head with many tourists complaining that restaurants, shops and cafes are closed in popular tourist areas like the Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast as well as in regional towns like Mackay, Bundaberg, Gympie and Toowoomba.

Restaurant and cafe operators say they simply can't afford to stay open because of penalty rates which can turn a $18 basic wage into a $45 an hour cost through penalty rates on a public holiday.

In Noosa,  business leaders, including Hastings St restaurateur Jim Berardo, gently bent the ears of leading Federal Opposition politicians about helping them keep their doors open.

They met last November with then  Senate Opposition leader and shadow minister for employment and workplace relations Eric Abetz.

At a Tewantin round-table meeting this week with the Member for Wide Bay, Warren Truss, and LNP's Fairfax candidate, Ted O'Brien, and Senator Abetz gave a commitment to listen to the concerns of small business.

The meeting was organised by the Noosa Chamber of Commerce.

It was after Mr Berardo, chamber treasurer Wayne Staal of Holmans accountancy and taxation firm and others had outlined the grim business scene for many tourist operators.

"We're predominantly tourism-based with roughly 16,000 jobs in Noosa supported by the tourist industry," Mr Staal said after the meeting. "We need to make sure that we've got viable tourist restaurants."

He said Senator Abetz listened to their concerns about penalty rates, lack of flexible working arrangements, red tape with hiring employees and unfair dismissal laws.

Chamber president Carl Beck, who has championed penalty rates reform, said the business outlook in Noosa was dire under the existing Federal Government workplace legislation.

"We've lost a lot of businesses already, but there's going to be a whole lot more go to the wall," he said.