House debates

Thursday, 12 November 2020

Questions without Notice


2:33 pm

Photo of Mr Tony BurkeMr Tony Burke (Watson, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for the Arts) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Industrial Relations. Can the minister confirm that there is no protection against employers excluding workers over the age of 35 from even being allowed to apply for a job?

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

With respect, the question doesn't make any sense. I mean, there is a provision in the Age Discrimination Act which allows for the existence of Commonwealth programs that target people by a cohort of disadvantage, including age. What has Labor got against a policy designed to help the people most in need with the highest rates of unemployment, which are young Australians? What has Labor got against that policy? What is the problem that they have?

As the Treasurer noted, it is young Australians who have suffered the most with unemployment during the COVID recession. It is young Australians who will have the most scarring effect to their employment and wage-earning capacity, and there is an enormous effort by this government through the hiring credit and other matters to try to bring those young Australians back into employment as quickly as possible. It is precisely those types of provisions in the Age Discrimination Act, which have been there since 2004, that allow for Commonwealth programs of this type. There have been many Commonwealth programs that have specifically tried to target the people at the greatest disadvantage, which right here and now are young Australians. So the point is that that is precisely what we are doing, trying to help those people who have the greatest disadvantage.

But I will say now, as I have said before, as a message to the House, as a message to employers, notwithstanding that we are trying to help those people who are suffering the greatest disadvantage in terms of unemployment, under the Fair Work Act you cannot favour those people against existing employees by adverse action against those existing employees. In addition, there are a whole range of protections that the Treasurer has clearly outlined that means that they cannot do what it is that the opposition are suggesting—quite falsely to people who listen to this and take views from it—that they can do. They can't. It is designed to help young people, not to disadvantage anyone else.