Wednesday, 23 November 2016
Social Security Legislation Amendment (Youth Jobs Path: Prepare, Trial, Hire) Bill 2016; Consideration in Detail
I was sitting in my office, watching what was happening down here in the chamber and I felt compelled to come on down and speak to this. It was just over a week ago that I found myself here speaking to the Social Security Legislation Amendment (Youth Jobs Path: Prepare, Trial, Hire) Bill 2016. As I mentioned back then, Labor has always supported meaningful investment and initiatives that give young people a real pathway towards long-term, stable employment because, as I am sure the minister would agree, there is real dignity in having a job. I am a mother of four boys and they range from 16 to 26—so I am a mother and also a worker. Up until a few months ago, I was a worker just like my boys are. I know that there is real dignity in having a job. I know about being able to put food on the table, to put a roof over your head, to be able to join the local sporting team and to be a member of my community, and that comes from having a job. I know that firsthand. I would like to thank the member for Mayo for those questions that she raised and I look forward to waiting for the minister to answer them as well because I am keen to hear those answers.
The point that I felt compelled to come down and make about this proposal is that there are several elements about the program that have the potential to undermine what our country has fought hard for in the way of workforce standards. The first thing I would like to raise is that we should all be alarmed by any proposal that allows a business to pay workers below the award rate. We have heard it a number of times before. I was in my suite and I could hear the minister arguing around $4 an hour. Having 17- to 24-year-olds participate in an internship for 25 hours a week, earning $100 a week—I do not need a calculator, but I am happy to get it out of my office and bring it down to the minister if he needs a hand—that is $4 an hour. If he needs one, please pass it on that I can hand one over to him.
I have always believed in a fair day's pay for a fair day's work. We have award rates in this country because, as a society, we believe that low-paid workers should have economic security and should be protected from exploitation. In question time today, I heard the Prime Minister say, 'We back the workers.' Well, I tell you what, I wonder how that young, Queensland, 7-Eleven worker feels about that backing of the Prime Minister. I wonder how backed that worker feels when I watch the video of that. The second concern I have got is the real risk of companies cycling through young workers and using them as cheap labour. You could be working early mornings, you could be working late nights, you could be working weekends and you could work Christmas Day—nothing to stop you—in any industry at all.
In my electorate, we not only have unemployment but also have underemployment. Those are workers who are already working but are actually looking for more hours. The real risk is that they can lose their hours. You do need to look any further than Longman to have see how underemployment is playing out. At Caboolture Community Action, where they feed the hungry and the homeless—and I have spoken about this great organisation a number of times—we are seeing more and more people turning up that do have jobs but do not have enough hours. There is enough money to put fuel in the car and there is enough money to pay the rent but there is not enough money for food. That is the real story of underemployment.
As I said before, we have always supported meaningful investment. We will always support initiatives that give young people a pathway through unemployment because, like I said, I know in Longman there is nothing more dignifying than having a decent job. Over the last week, as I am sure many people have, I have been to a lot of school awards ceremonies celebrating the achievements of our children, but the one thing that parents keep asking me about, and the thing that always resonated with me, was jobs for our children. This is the stuff that is concerning for them. We cannot allow a proposal like this to go through unchecked. We must have security.
My questions—and I am happy for him to get back to me on these—to the minister are: what guarantee will he give us that people will not lose their casual hours? Those people who are underemployed already in my community, what guarantee will they have that they will not lose their casual hours that they want more of? What guarantee—and I heard the member for Mayo raise this as well—will our kids have that they will know their rights at work as they first start at a place of employment?