Monday, 22 February 2021
Fair Work Amendment (Supporting Australia's Jobs and Economic Recovery) Bill 2020; Second Reading
I am in continuation. I was speaking before question time today about this industrial relations legislation, the Fair Work Amendment (Supporting Australia's Jobs and Economic Recovery) Bill 2020, and I wanted to tell the House, of course, that Labor agrees that there are significant issues with our industrial relations environment, significant problems that need fixing and significant wrongs that need righting. But the problem is not that working people have too much power, that wages are too high, that wages are growing too quickly or that work is too secure. In fact, the exact opposite is the case. We see wage stagnation, wage theft and widespread job insecurity. Our Labor leader, Anthony Albanese, spoke about this last week in Brisbane.
Even before this bill was announced, our system was riddled with insecurities and injustices, such as two people who could be doing the same job in the same workplace, perhaps in the same mine, with one paid 20 per cent less than the person they're working right next to because they're employed by a labour hire firm. It's not right in modern Australia that such inequity should exist, or that a person being hit by a car door while they're on their delivery bike should then have to go back to work before they're fully healed, while they're still injured, because they don't have any sick leave, or that a worker who's injured while doing delivery riding work and then returns to work because they have to, because they have no sick leave, should then be sacked because they're not able to deliver food quickly enough. These things happen every day, and they're legal under the arrangements as they exist at the moment.
Wage theft is, of course, illegal but is so widespread. We have heard example after example of millions of dollars being taken from working people—sometimes perhaps inadvertently, with poor calculations or poor record keeping, but in some cases absolutely blatantly where workers are paid a wage, it goes into their bank account and then they're told to go and withdraw the cash and give it back to the boss if they want to keep their jobs.
If the Prime Minister were really serious about reforming the industrial relations system, if he really cared about job security and wage growth, he would start with a very different set of questions to the ones that are driving the industrial relations laws that are before us at the moment—simple questions like: Should two people doing the same job get the same pay?
Should every Australian worker receive at least the minimum wage? Should people be paid penalty rates when they are giving up time with their families to work on the weekend? Should they receive penalty rates for that or for public holidays? As I said, these questions reflect some really fundamental differences between how we approach this and how the government is approaching this.
We choose to build an economy that provides security and decent wages for all Australians. Former Liberal Prime Minister John Howard talked about Australians being relaxed and comfortable. Despite the fact that I agree with former Prime Minister Howard on very little in the industrial relations world, this idea of Australians—after the horror year they experienced with the pandemic, after all the sacrifices they made—having the right to be perhaps not relaxed and comfortable but relaxed and confident is something worth fighting for. People should be confident that if they work hard and do the right thing at work they'll have a job next week, next month and next year. They should be confident that if they work hard they will get paid at least the minimum wage. They should be confident that if they work hard and their company is doing well they will see some of that benefit in terms of higher wages. They should be confident that there will be a job, a skilled job, a secure job, for their kids and their grandkids. They should be confident that Australia will continue to pay a decent day's pay for a decent day's work.
We have led the world in so many ways over the years. We can lead the world in the recovery from the pandemic as well by making sure that all Australians are confident that if they work hard their job is safe and they will receive decent pay. They should be confident, too, that we can withstand the next shock and that if they fall on hard times they will be helped back onto their feet.
Australians have sacrificed so much this year. These sacrifices were necessary but very painful, and they should mean something in terms of a better future. They should produce something worthwhile and good. Australians deserve a government with a genuine commitment to full employment, where job security is within the reach of everyone. They deserve a government that recognises that decent pay and job security create the confidence and demand that keeps more Australians in work. The last thing they deserve is a pay cut.