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George Calombaris wage theft penalty ‘too light’

Attorney-General Christian Porter says George Calombaris’ company received a “light” penalty when it was fined $200,000 for underpaying workers.

Attorney-General Christian Porter believes celebrity chef George Calombaris got off lightly for underpaying his workers almost $8 million.

Calombaris was last week fined $200,000 for ripping off his restaurant staff.

“I think that that fine myself is light,” Mr Porter told ABC Radio National on Tuesday.

“I’ve said that that’s an area where we will review penalties and I’m open minded to submissions that there should be firmer penalties there, inclusive of potentially criminal penalties reserved for repetitious breaches.

“We’re going to go through a process of consultation on both sides of this argument, to determine what is the proper limitation – so at what point would you apply those criminal offences.”

Network Ten was under immense pressure to sack Calombaris as a judge on the reality cooking show MasterChef after his Made Establishment was fined.

Instead, Calombaris and his two co-hosts Matt Preston and Gary Mehigan walked away from the show after pay negotiations fell through.

“Despite months of negotiation, 10 has not been able to reach a commercial agreement that was satisfactory to Matt, Gary and George,” Network Ten chief executive Paul Anderson said.

The trio, who were judges on the show for 11 seasons, made their last appearance on Tuesday night’s 2019 season finale, with new judges to be introduced in next year’s season.

The trio had reportedly demanded a pay rise of more than 40 per cent to stay.

Mr Anderson denied the MasterChef announcement was linked to Calombaris’ troubles, saying the network had been in negotiations with the trio for months.

“The reality is that we couldn’t meet the demands of the three judges,” he told Ten News.

In a post on Instagram on Tuesday night, Mehigan thanked fans and the MasterChef team and paid tribute to the “journey” they and the contestants had travelled.

He denied their departure was motivated by finances.

“To explain: “It was time to move on, have more free time to explore our own creativity”,” he said.

“It was never about the money and never will be about the money. We couldn’t agree on the term of the new contract for 2020 and season 12. Something we felt very strongly about.”

Working together will continue to be “the most important thing for us”, Mehigan said.

Calombaris likewise took to Instagram, saying the trio were “close” to signing a new contract for season 12, “however the dates just didn’t align”.

Preston posted on Instagram that the chefs were “really keen to continue but we were unable to agree to all terms for the new contract”.

Source: AAP

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Loren Webb

Loren Webb

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