Federation Chamber - ADJOURNMENT - Workplace Relations

29 November 2018

I rise to speak about one of the big issues that face many Australians—the uncertainty created by insecure jobs. Over 40 per cent of our workforce is in casual, contract, fixed-term, labour hire or gig economy work, mostly by compulsion rather than choice. Each of these types of employment has enormous negative consequences—for example, an inability to get a loan because you're on a fixed-term contract as a teacher, or an inability to plan your family life because you are a casual. Even among those with ongoing work, there are around 1.1 million part-timers who would like to work longer hours and just can't get them. Finally, these workers often struggle on low pay, which makes their lives vulnerable to shocks because they can't save.

The RBA and expert commentators lament constantly that wages growth has stalled, especially in the private sector, at 2.1 per cent per annum. This is bad for families and it's bad for the economy. It is not enough to spruik job numbers as this out-of-touch government does. It's the quality of jobs and the conditions attached to those jobs that count for as much as the raw numbers. An increasing number of our young people are trapped in low-paid, insecure work for much longer than any parent would like. Ironically, the crowing about jobs growth stands in stark contrast to the increasing fear in our communities about their economic future. The reality that my constituents experience is that a sustainable income is increasingly hard to achieve.

I would like to assure our next generation of workers that only Labor will have the policies to provide decent, higher paid jobs. Good jobs don't just happen by accident. Only Labor will reinstate penalty rates, tackle sham contracting and remove the limitations on enterprise bargaining by rewriting and changing the Fair Work Act to better balance the rights of employers and employees. Even the Reserve Bank is urging increased worker bargaining power and better wages outcomes to boost economic demand.

Only Labor will adequately support manufacturing to provide a pathway for higher skilled and higher paid jobs. We will deliver an advanced manufacturing future fund to help Australian manufacturing firms to innovate, modernise and move into high-value production, making them globally competitive.

Only Labor will help rebuild public TAFE at the national level, unlike those opposite, who've been shamed into a dodgy review. I think of the wonderful Northern College of the Arts and Technology in my seat of Batman. Along with loads of great trade courses, NCAT has established a certificate in musical instrument making and repair. They identified that there was nowhere in Victoria to send Yamaha guitars and other instruments for repair. There was effectively no skilled workforce to do that work. They aren't just providing opportunities; they are creating a niche industry and workforce. I'm proud that a Shorten Labor government will commit $10 million to NCAT to further their job-creating work.

Like Labor in Victoria, only a Shorten Labor government will build the generation-defining infrastructure which will set up our cities and regions for the next 50 years of growth. Labor's view is that migration has made this country what it is today. We don't reject migration; we embrace it. Rather than cut migration out of fear, like the coalition, we will invest what is needed to continue to make our cities the most livable in the world. To modernise our economy and our society, the next decade can't be business as usual. We have to make a huge investment. And, if it means better jobs and better cities, voters will support that increased investment, just like they did in Victoria.

Significant to that investment in future jobs will be the transition to a reduced carbon economy. That means new jobs in new technologies, in the installation of solar and wind farms, in the installation of hundreds of thousands of subsidised home-battery packs, and in the electric car industry, to name just a few. It is only Labor who will invest in our health sector, aged care, early childhood education and public health to create long-term, secure jobs—like jobs for speech therapists in colleges and public schools in my electorate, to provide the wraparound services that my Batman school principals forum regards as essential. Only Labor will deliver universal access to three- and four-year-old kinder for every family, creating thousands of new jobs. Finally, only Labor will turn free trade deals into fair trade deals, with a commitment to labour market testing so that jobs for locals don't disappear before anyone's had a chance to apply. The next election can't come too soon. I can't wait to be a part of a Shorten Labor government that cares about the quality of jobs, not just the quantity of jobs.