House debates

Thursday, 18 June 2020

Questions without Notice

COVID-19: JobMaker

2:47 pm

Photo of Dave SharmaDave Sharma (Wentworth, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Attorney-General and Minister for Industrial Relations. Will the minister update the House on how the Morrison government's JobMaker plan includes consideration of employment flexibility to make it easier for businesses to employ more Australians, particularly those who have been hardest-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic?

Photo of Christian PorterChristian Porter (Pearce, Liberal Party, Attorney-General) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member, and I know he has a great interest in this area and the people that we can help by potential reforms. Today's unemployment figures obviously show that the task to regrow jobs will be monumental and require enormous effort and new approaches across a whole range of policy areas. We also know, of course, that some sectors have been hit harder than others. The accommodation and food services sector—our cafes, our restaurants—is ordinarily our sixth-largest industry by employment. That has seen almost a 30 per cent drop in jobs since March. And that sector—food services and accommodation—along with retail, I think, are two of the hardest-hit sectors. They're obviously also very big employers of women and young people in our economy. So in accommodation and food services, over half, about 55 per cent, is female employment, and 47 per cent in that industry sector are young people aged between 15 and 24. When you have this decrease that, as we've discussed today, is felt more immediately by women and by young people, the challenge is: how do we regrow the jobs in those areas as quickly as possible? Those two industry sectors that are presently in enormous distress, that presently have greatest effects for women and young Australians, are also two industry sectors most reliant on the award system and they're also two industry sectors where there are the most complicated awards inside the system. So there is a challenge that, if we can make those awards simpler, we can actually assist the businesses to grow the jobs to increase young and female participation in those workforces and get us back to where we were, which was the highest female workforce participation and the lowest gender pay gap that Australia has ever seen. Just by way of that complexity, those awards have between them 200 different classifications and more than 3½ thousand potential pay points.

There's an example of a young person working a 14-hour pay period with five different pay rates—not a 14-day period, a 14-hour period. In the hospitality award, a grade 1 food and beverage attendant can wipe tables and pick up glasses from tables, but not take beverages to tables. Taking things to tables must be done by a grade 2. A grade 2 worker can also answer the phone, take reservations and greet and seat guests, but not a grade 1 worker. And they must never wipe a table. A grade 3 worker can supervise a grade 1 staff member that can wipe tables, and they can provide general assistance to food and beverage attendants at a higher classification, but this cannot include service to customers and it must never include service at a snack bar.

You can imagine how it is for the cafe and restaurant owners in all of our electorates dealing with the complexity of that type of award. Through our working group process, if we can decrease that complexity, we can grow jobs, particularly jobs for young Australian men and women.