Monday, 15 February 2021
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Prime Minister, and I refer to the working conditions of Queensland coalminers Simon and Ron. They work in the Bowen Basin, in the same job with the same boss, side-by-side on the same roster. Simon is a permanent employee but Ron is employed by a labour hire company. He is paid 20 per cent less and has none of the worker entitlements that Simon has. Can the Prime Minister advise the House how this is fair?
It's a serious question and it goes to the issue of the use of labour hire. The earlier formulation of the question was whether or not it was agreed that two workers doing the same job at the same place in the same workplace should get the same pay. That is not even the Labor policy. When you read their speech, they say that a labour hire firm who employs someone at the same job at the same pay should get no less. It's actually not even their policy, and they have had some difficulties in working out what their own policy is.
The difficulties, of course, arise with labour hire. For the benefit of the House, the ABS notes that labour hire as a proportion of all employees has been stable at about two per cent over the last decade. What is very important—and what the government absolutely ensures occurs—is that under labour hire agreements people should have exactly the same rights as other employees, including, of course, unfair dismissal rights; award entitlements; bargaining rights; general protections; and work, health and safety protections to name but a few. The Labor Party say that they have a policy for perfect equality between those two forms of employment, but when you actually read their policy they acknowledge that that is incredibly difficult. Indeed, in their policy, they say that someone at the labour hire with the same type of work at the same place should get at least as much but could get more—not exact parity, as they pretended in their earlier question. The reason why that is actually very, very difficult to achieve in practice is, for instance, an employee who is remunerated directly—
Yes. It was a very specific question about real workers in the Bowen Basin and their real conditions they enjoy right now. Their photo is available—Simon and Ron. And you need to address it.
Government members interjecting—
The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat. Members on my right will cease interjecting.
Mr Christensen interjecting—
The member for Dawson is now warned. The question certainly had a long preamble, and I gave a lot of latitude to the Leader of the Opposition. The Leader of the House has been relevant I think up until about this point. The question didn't ask about any alternative policies; it asked about the government's approach. I'd ask him to come back to the question.
The Leader of the Opposition pretends that some perfect parity between two workers—one in labour hire and one directly remunerated—is an easy thing to do, but he can't tell us how that would be done. Indeed, the Leader of the Opposition can't even get exact parity in two versions of his own speech inside 24 hours, but he's going to try and pretend to these two workers he can sort it out, notwithstanding having no plan to do it.
The Leader of the House will resume his seat.
Mr Thistlethwaite interjecting—
The Member for Kingsford Smith and other members, I remind you of the provisions of 94(a). They don't require a warning. I'm not going to keep interrupting proceedings for members who continually interject. Many of you have your names in Hansard many, many times.