Senate debates

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Bills

Fair Work Amendment (Protecting Vulnerable Workers) Bill 2017; In Committee

6:46 pm

Photo of Nick XenophonNick Xenophon (SA, Nick Xenophon Team) Share this | Hansard source

Senator Cameron, I understand the intent of it. This bill does include a number of provisions to actually deal with vulnerable workers so that we don't have a repeat of the 7-Eleven case. I think there is some consensus from the opposition that that will have a significant beneficial effect. I think the general principle is that there can be a role for reverse onus of proof in circumstances where it is necessary to deal with a particular mischief or a particular problem. But the question that I think will be put by small businesses is this: what happens where a false claim is made? What happens when someone says they worked certain hours when in fact they didn't? Let's assume that it's a rare occurrence. But I can imagine some small business operators will be saying, 'I've got a system in place for paying workers. I'll give them a pay slip in an envelope with cash'—if they don't have a computerised payroll. What do we do about issues of false claims?

I can imagine that the reverse onus of proof for small and medium businesses could see some very significant litigation. In other words, the onus is on them to prove their innocence, and that itself could be a very costly exercise. I'm genuinely struggling with this amendment. I'm worried about unintended consequences. I would be grateful if the proponent of this amendment, Senator Cameron, could outline what he says will be the safeguards to minimise or prevent unintended consequences.

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