Monday, 11 September 2023
Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Closing Loopholes) Bill 2023; Second Reading
The new offence will carry with it penalties of $18 million for bodies corporate and 25 years for individuals. Other penalties will significantly increase to reflect the seriousness of the safety breaches. Recklessly exposing an individual to serious injury or death, a category 1 offence, will now carry a penalty of $15 million for bodies corporate, up from $3 million. Individuals face a $3 million fine, up from $600,000—and a $1.5 million fine for any other person. All other penalties in the WHS Act will increase by 39.03 per cent and will be indexed to CPI. A safe working environment is a right, and these increased penalties reflect the seriousness of violating that right.
Other measures in this bill that will improve and strengthen worker safety both inside and outside of the workplace include extending the functions of the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency to address silica related diseases, improving access to workplaces by workplace delegates for safety and compliance issues and making it unlawful to discriminate against any employee who is or was subject to family or domestic violence. Another significant measure in this bill is the criminalisation of wage theft. No longer can employers intentionally steal from the pay packets of their workers without serious consequences. Intentional underpayment will become a criminal offence with a maximum of 10 years imprisonment and a maximum fine of either three times the amount underpaid or $1,565,000 for an individual or $7,825,000 for a body corporate, whichever is greater. This government is serious about protecting the wages of Australians, and these significant penalties reflect that. Wage theft is theft, and it's time to treat it as such.
Unfortunately, there's not enough time to mention every measure contained in this bill that will improve the rights of workers. This includes measures that will protect workers from sham contracts, streamline workers compensation claims for first responders who sustain PTSD, improve worker access to enterprise agreements and strengthen the powers of the Fair Work Commission. The bill is the culmination of more than a year of consultation from across the Australian economy and is a continuation of our commitment as a government to protecting and strengthening the rights of workers. That was the Albanese Labor government's election commitment, and it's what good Labor governments do. I'm honoured to speak on this bill, and I commend the bill to the House.