House debates

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Bills

Fair Work Amendment Bill 2013; Consideration in Detail

3:31 pm

Photo of Sussan LeySussan Ley (Farrer, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Childcare and Early Childhood Learning) Share this | Hansard source

by leave—I move amendments (1) to (27) on sheet 1 as circulated in my name:

(1) Schedule 3, item 1, page 16 (line 6), omit "allows a worker", substitute "allows a worker or employer".

(2) Schedule 3, item 3, page 16 (table heading), omit "Workers bullied at work", substitute "Workers or employers bullied at work".

(3) Schedule 3, item 4, page 16 (line 21), omit "workers bullied", substitute "workers or employers bullied".

(4) Schedule 3, item 5, page 17 (line 1), omit "workers bullied", substitute "workers or employers bullied".

(5) Schedule 3, item 6, page 17 (line 5), omit "Workers bullied", substitute "Workers or employers bullied".

(6) Schedule 3, item 6, page 17 (line 8), omit "a worker who", substitute "a worker or employer who".

(7) Schedule 3, item 6, page 17 (line 9), omit "stop the bullying", substitute "stop the bullying after seeking advice from the Fair Work Ombudsman or Safe Work Australia or such other organisation as prescribed by the regulations".

(8) Schedule 3, item 6, page 17 (line 12), omit "Stopping workers", substitute "Stopping workers and employers".

(9) Schedule 3, item 6, page 17 (line 14), omit "A worker who", substitute "Subject to subsection (1A), a worker or employer who".

(10) Schedule 3, item 6, page 17 (line 15), omit "at work", substitute "at work by a worker, employer or official of a registered organisation".

(11) Schedule 3, item 6, page 17 (after line 15), after subsection 789FC(1), insert:

  (1A) Prior to applying to the FWC for an order under section 789FF, the worker or employer must seek preliminary advice from one of the following organisations confirming that the behaviour in question does, or may, constitute bullying and that alternative remedies have been considered:

(a) the Fair Work Ombudsman;

(b) Safe Work Australia;

(c) an occupational health and safety organisation of a State or Territory prescribed by the regulations pursuant to subsection (1B).

  (1B) The Governor-General may make regulations prescribing an occupational health and safety organisation of a State or Territory. However, if the Governor-General makes the regulation, the regulation must include at least one occupational health and safety organisation from each State and Territory.

(12) Schedule 3, item 6, page 18 (line 3), omit "worker bullied", substitute "worker or employer bullied".

(13) Schedule 3, item 6, page 18 (line 4), omit "A worker", substitute "A worker or employer".

(14) Schedule 3, item 6, page 18 (line 5), omit "the worker", substitute "the worker or employer".

(15) Schedule 3, item 6, page 18 (line 8), at the end of subparagraph 789FD(1)(a)(ii), add "or".

(16) Schedule 3, item 6, page 18 (after line 8), after subparagraph 789FD(1)(a)(ii), insert:

     (iii) an official of a registered organisation;

(17) Schedule 3, item 6, page 18 (line 9), omit "the worker", substitute "the worker or employer".

(18) Schedule 3, item 6, page 18 (line 10), omit "group of workers of which the worker is a member", substitute "group of which the worker or employer is a member".

(19) Schedule 3, item 6, page 18 (line 33), omit "a worker", substitute "a worker or an employer".

(20) Schedule 3, item 6, page 19 (line 2), omit "the worker", substitute "the worker or employer".

(21) Schedule 3, item 6, page 19 (line 4), omit "the worker", substitute "the worker or employer".

(22) Schedule 3, item 6, page 19 (line 6), omit "order it considers appropriate", substitute "order it considers appropriate including an order revoking a union right of entry permit".

(23) Schedule 3, item 6, page 19 (line 8), omit "the worker", substitute "the worker or employer".

(24) Schedule 3, item 6, page 19 (line 15), omit "the worker", substitute "the worker or employer".

(25) Schedule 3, item 6, page 19 (line 18), omit "the worker", substitute "the worker or employer".

(26) Schedule 3, item 6, page 19 (line 30), omit "a worker", substitute "a worker or employer".

(27) Schedule 3, item 6, page 19 (line 31), omit "the worker", substitute "the worker or employer".

These amendments relate to workplace bullying and many speakers on this side of the House have alerted members opposite in the government to the ridiculousness of including provisions on workplace bullying in a fair work bill.

There is a plethora of state and also federal agencies that can take complaints about workplace bullying. There is a Work Safe Australia in every single state and territory. It is bizarre that the government should have decided that they want to include a whole new subject matter in a bill to amend the Fair Work laws of this country that actually has nothing to do with that. There are provisions already underway with the government's own Safe Work Australia. Why would you introduce a new mechanism about a new subject that is already under discussion for legislative debate with Safe Work Australia into a bill that is designed to look at the Fair Work review? We take very seriously the issue of workplace bullying. We noted with interest the House of Representatives committee's report into the issue, but we are really disappointed that the government did not see fit to deal with the issue in separate legislation.

We support the proposals to address workplace bullying, but only if it is clear that the worker has first sought help and impartial advice from an independent regulatory agency and, further, that these provisions are expanded to include the conduct of union officials towards workers and employers. The amendments that I move achieve this objective and I would encourage members on the crossbenches to support them. It is important to recognise that these amendments have already been supported by the government's handpicked lead reviewer of the Fair Work Act who was reported in Workplace Express on 14 May as having said the coalition's proposal that bullying claims go through an independent regulatory agency before being lodged with the Fair Work Commission was a great way to do it.

In fact, the minister just moved an amendment that we agreed to that said that the workplace bullying activities of the Fair Work Commission would not start until 1 January because there is absolutely no way that the Fair Work Commission can get together a whole unit to deal with the subject matter that is not really in its purview in the next couple of weeks. So the government acknowledges itself that it cannot get its act together before 1 January and has extended the period by six months. The most sensible thing would be to filter out complaints of bullying made in the workplace through the existing agencies and the existing structures which include state OH&S law as well as the common law. Then, if there is no resolution, maybe bring it to the Fair Work Commission.

As well as that, it is perfectly obvious to everyone in this place that some of the biggest bullies in the workplace are union bosses. So we are saying that the bill should be amended to include bullying by union bosses of workers and employers in the workplace. Every speaker on this side of the House has brought evidence to the parliament in this debate of exactly that. These are perfectly moderate amendments and I commend them to the House.

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