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Tony Abbott rules out cutting penalty rates

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Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said the government will not lower or axe penalty rates, saying such changes are up to business to push for.

Speaking on the first anniversary of the election of the Coalition Government, Mr Abbott told AFR Weekend that businesses can attempt to change penalty rates by applying to the Fair Work Commission.

"It's not for us to have a go at penalty rates," he said.

"There's nothing to stop a business organisation taking an application... to the Fair Work Commission and the FWC will adjudicate on that."

As reported by the ABC, Mr Abbott's statement follows a call by government backbencher Alex Hawke for changes to penalty rates as a means to lower youth unemployment.

"If you change penalty rates now, in six to 12 months you'd start to see an impact of more small businesses taking on more young people," he said.

"Given that Sundays are no longer sacrosanct ... having to pay a 75 per cent loading [is] an old concept.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) supported Mr Hawke's position.

"You can’t have unemployment at a twelve-year high, with the youth jobless rates double the national average, and not be concerned," ACCI CEO Kate Carnell said in a statement.

She added, "It is not good enough for the government to look at penalty rates via a productivity inquiry later in the year, and then take recommendations to the next election.

"We have a crisis now. That’s just too slow.”

However, the ACTU has signalled it will use all its efforts to defend the current IR arrangements.

“The Abbott Government has a clear agenda to chip away at workplace laws protecting workers’ rights, wages and conditions by ‘evolution not revolution’,” ACTU President Ged Kearney said in a statement.

Amongst other things and in stark contrast to ACCI’s position, the ACTU attacked the upcoming Productivity Commission review of workplace laws and said its draft terms of reference “may as well have been written by big business.”

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