House debates

Thursday, 10 December 2020

Questions without Notice

Workplace Relations

2:26 pm

Photo of Ged KearneyGed Kearney (Cooper, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Skills) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Industrial Relations. Yesterday the minister denied that a personal carer in aged care could lose up to $11,000 a year from their take-home pay under the government's legislation. Why won't the minister acknowledge the truth: that if there is no 'better off' test then every penalty rate and shift allowance is at risk?

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

That is because there is a 'better off' test, and it remains in the legislation, as it was always designed to do. I think what the member is talking about is what's known as crisis provision, which was inserted into the Fair Work Act by the Labor Party—section 189. And maybe I can share with the House some of the very rare instances in which that has been used in the past. In 2011, under the then Labor government, Dhimurru Aboriginal Corporation needed to allow for extreme weather events and made an application, agreed to by all 19 of its employees, to work their ordinary hours in a way that was not catered for in the award. The Fair Work Commission agreed with the agreement amongst all the employees and the employer that that was a commonsense change that was not contrary to the public interest and should be approved—and it was approved. That seems to us to be a reasonable, limited response in a crisis circumstance.

In another example, in 2011 a fresh produce business in Cairns, after floods and Cyclone Yasi and what was described as the extreme weather event of the 'nonoccurrence of winter' that had impacted the production of fruit, had an agreement by all staff to work additional hours at ordinary rates. Again, the independent umpire, under the provision inserted into the Fair Work Act by Labor, made a determination that the application agreed to by employees and agreed to by the employer was not contrary to the public interest, which is the firm, clear, necessary safety net test there. And that agreement was agreed to. The idea that what the member is suggesting would occur, either in the present system or in the very modest addition that we have suggested to section 189, is simply not correct.