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'MasterChef' Australia judge George Calombaris slams new pay rules

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George Calombaris from MasterChef Australia

© Network Ten

George Calombaris has hit out at the Australian government for new laws which he says force him to pay his restaurant staff more than he believes is necessary.

The Australian celebrity chef, who is best known as a judge on reality TV show MasterChef, said that provisions in the federal government's new Fair Work Act mean he will have to pay employees in his Melbourne pasta bar up to $40 (£26.65) an hour on Sundays.

Calombaris told The Power Index: "It's not like they've had to go to uni for 15 years. The problem is that wages on public holidays and weekend greatly exceed the opportunity for profit. So our labour laws are something that need to be looked at.''

The new regime - which has also been criticised by chef Tony Bilson - will make eating out more expensive, Calombaris argued.

However, workplace relationship minister Bill Shorten has disagreed with Calombaris's argument, saying: "If George wants to bargain with his workers and improve productivity and be even more competitive, then the tools exist in our present workplace system.

"Penalty rates compensate wait staff and others who have to work late nights, public holidays and weekends while everyone else gets to spend this time with family and friends. The Gillard government won't be adopting the low road of paying already low-paid workers less.''

Public affairs work reform director John Lloyd added: "Under the current system the penalty rates are underpinned by an award and basically set in concrete. The Rudd/Gillard workplace relations system has imposed a rigid set of rules."

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