PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS (Federation Chamber): Employment

18 October 2021

I rise to speak to the motion moved by my colleague the member for Paterson. It is an important motion and one that I wholeheartedly support. When people of a country elect a government, elect a party to power, they expect that government to always act in their own interests. You think to yourself, 'There's no way a government that has been elected would do anything that would impact my life, my income or my work that wouldn't be to my advantage.' Well unfortunately in Australia that is exactly what has happened here.

When I was president of the ACTU, we did a very important research project into insecure work in Australia. There are nearly 12 million workers in this country, and our research found that nearly 40 per cent of the workforce are in some form of insecure work. Insecure work has absolutely blossomed under this government—if I can use that word, because it is not something you want to blossom. There's increased casualisation, outsourcing, the gig economy that has absolutely exploded, short-term contracts and, of course, the use of labour hire.

Labour hire is the context of this motion here today. As the previous speaker said, there is a time and place for casual workers to be employed by labour hire firms. But, unfortunately, what we are seeing right now in this country is the use labour hire to undermine wages and conditions. I'm glad that he recognised that this needs to be something that should be looked at. We know the evils with the gig economy. Short-term contracts are an absolute scourge. Outsourcing and casualisation are both ways, along with labour hire, that big business, small business and medium-sized businesses have used time and time again to undermine the decent minimum wage structure and award structures that we have in this country.

In this latest development, we've seen this government team up with big business and dodgy labour hire firms to cut the wages and conditions of workers in the mining sector. We know that they do this. This is a given. It's nothing but a greedy, cost-cutting tactic and it's being endorsed by the government. As a result of the legislation that they've pushed through this place at the direction of their big-business mates, labour hire workers are doing the exact same job as workers who have full-time, permanent, secure jobs; working side by side for less pay and fewer conditions.

Now, you don't mind using labour hire if it is indeed to cover those unexpected peaks and troughs of the labour force; that's what it was invented for. You might go through a boom-and-bust time and there might be a certain part of the workforce that can come and go, and that is what labour hire or casualisation is for. But if you are a worker doing the exact same job, five days a week, week in, week out, you are, for all intents and purposes, a full-time employee, a permanent employee.

You should be employed as such, and you should enjoy the same terms and conditions as your fellow workers who are employed on a full-time basis.

Insecure work is a scourge. It leads to anxious lives, people sitting by the phone wondering if they're going to get a shift, day in, day out. This does not make for a secure economy. It does not make for a decent family life. You can't get a loan. You can't buy a car. You can't plan for those weekends. That's bad enough, but when you should be enjoying those terms and conditions you get from a full-time job you can't, because you are employed by a labour hire firm and the big company that employs you doesn't want to pay you what you should be paid or give you those conditions that come with a full-time job.

An Albanese Labor government, on the other side, has a plan for secure jobs. We want people to have secure lives. We want them to know that they can rely on a job they have, that the pay is good enough to put food on the table and to pay the rent. We have a plan. We will make job security an explicit object of the Fair Work Act. We will make sure people in labour hire or the gig economy are better protected. We will criminalise wage theft. We'll make sure workers are paid their entitlements. For those employed in precarious industries or insecure work, we will make sure that their entitlements are portable, at least, so that every worker in this country is given the security of a holiday, paid leave and other entitlements that they have earned. An Anthony Albanese Labor government will be on your side, the side of Australian workers, because we are the party of secure jobs. We are the party of decent jobs.