FAIR WORK LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (CLOSING LOOPHOLES) BILL 2023
SPEECH TO THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES - SECOND READING DEBATE
6 September 2023
Mr. Speaker/Deputy Speaker,
Today, I stand in this chamber with pride as a member of the Albanese Labor Government to advocate for this well overdue, justified, and progressive legislation.
The Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Closing Loopholes) Bill is here and its here to make a big difference to the lives of many Australian workers and their families.
This legislation not only fills me with pride as an Australian.
It also fills me with pride as a member of the Australian Labor Party and the Albanese Labor Government.
The Government was elected on a resolute promise.
It was a promise to reinvigorate wage growth.
It has got wages moving with last year’s Secure Jobs, Better Pay legislation which was about raising the floor to improve working conditions and get wages moving again.
Our promise and commitment came on the heels of a decade of Liberal Government.
During which wages were intentionally suppressed by the previous government.
It comes as no surprise that the opposition opposes this bill, given their deliberate agenda to keep wages low.
However, it was the Australian Labor Party that took bold action to enhance working conditions and rekindle wage growth after a decade of stagnation.
Today, we find ourselves advancing once more with legislation that fosters a fairer environment for all workers.
This legislation is designed to close the loopholes that have eroded pay and working conditions for countless workers.
It marks a monumental achievement for this government and a personal highlight in my parliamentary career.
Allow me to share some of the heartening comments I've received from constituents since the Minister unveiled this legislation earlier this week:
- "This has been needed for a long time."
- "Thanks to a Labor government for finally addressing corporate injustice."
- "Well done."
- "Good work."
- "Thank you."
These are just a few of the sentiments expressed in the last few days.
Its because the Bill is about closing the loopholes that undermine the rights of workers.
It is about safeguarding the future and reputation of Australia.
It is about ensuring that its people are shielded from unjust treatment and exploitation.
Key provisions of the bill, including criminalizing wage theft, offering a pathway for casual employees to attain permanent status, and establishing minimum standards for the road transport industry, are truly commendable.
It came about after consultation with a range of stakeholders.
160 organisations made over 220 submissions to the consultation process.
It was important to us to ensure state and territory governments, business groups, employers, the mining and construction industry and unions were involved in the process.
We are a government that listens to the people of which our decisions affect.
Unlike the top down approach adopted by the Liberals in government.
As a result, is government moved forward after holding more than 80 consultation meetings, receiving feedback on the draft bill.
This legislation goes further than ever before.
It introduces ground-breaking changes for workers in the gig economy.
Under this bill, gig economy workers in Australia, including ride-share drivers and food delivery riders, will benefit from minimum pay rates and protections.
We are all familiar with the apps—Uber, DoorDash, Menulog, and Hungry Panda, to name a few—that have become integral to our daily lives, especially during the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
These platforms have been a lifeline for many, connecting us with essential services.
It is our duty to ensure that these workers are protected and treated fairly within our workplace framework.
We are increasingly relying on them for transportation, food delivery, trade services, and much more.
In some ways, they have become part of our everyday life.
They, in turn, should be able to rely on us to establish minimum standards that respect their contribution to our economy and our lifestyle.
Yet, they have been taken for granted.
But this will end under this legislation.
Working in the gig economy, for various reasons, should not result in lower wages than those received by traditional employees.
Such inequity has no place in Australia.
We are a nation that prides itself on worker protection and a fair and safe working environment.
Granting gig economy workers with the right to sick leave, annual leave, and minimum pay rates, currently denied under existing arrangements, is the right path forward.
Among the other wide-ranging amendments I would like to focus on is the changes introduced by this bill is one that closes the labor hire loophole.
This will benefit 67,000 workers who have been disadvantaged by this practice.
This will be life-changing for these individuals and their families.
It sends a strong signal to companies that have been undercutting workers.
The previous government, despite being well aware of the harm caused by this loophole to so many workers in this country, chose not to address it during their tenure.
They chose denial.
They chose to ignore it.
It’s a characteristic of much of the behaviour of the previous Liberal Government.
While they did this, the outsourcing of labour in Australia soared under their watch.
Initially intended as a temporary solution, labour hire has increasingly been used to circumvent negotiated enterprise agreement wages and conditions.
Statistics provided by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2023 show that labour hire use and labour hire employment growth have outpaced general employment growth.
Other research commissioned in 2023 by the Australian Council of Trade Unions further revealed that 81% of labour-hire workers work full-time hours but do not have full-time job security.
It indicated that 84% of labour-hire workers do not receive paid leave, and most have no guaranteed minimum hours.
Labor hire workers earn around $4,700 less annually compared to ordinary workers, according to the ACTU research.
Our election commitment was clear:
We promised to close this loophole.
We promised to ensure that workers employed through labour hire companies receive the same benefits as those directly employed.
This legislation will apply to companies with more than 15 employees, compelling them to pay wages equivalent to those agreed upon in enterprise agreements.
I wholeheartedly commend this bill to the House.
It signifies a giant leap forward in safeguarding the rights and well-being of Australian workers and underscores our commitment to addressing workers protection.
Together, we can ensure that all Australians, regardless of their occupation or location, have an equal opportunity to shape their future, free from unjust working conditions.
Our laws are being updated to reflect the changes to our workplace and our economy.
Because of our actions, people’s lives will change for the better.
Wages will get moving.
Workers will be protected.
In conclusion, I echo the words of my constituents:
Good stuff, well done, fabulous, finally, thank you.
I commend this bill to the house.