House debates

Monday, 15 February 2021

Questions without Notice


2:30 pm

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

My question is for the Minister for Industrial Relations. Could the minister outline to the House which workers the government believes should be paid less than the minimum wage?

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

It was this government that ensured that the laws that require that people be properly characterised in their employment are as strong and as well enforced as possible as has ever been the case. The coalition made it unlawful to misrepresent an employment relationship by treating someone as a contractor rather than as an employee. In the 2019-20 budget we took further action in that space—action that was never taken by members opposite—by providing $9.2 million in additional funding to the Fair Work Ombudsman to establish a dedicated unit to crack down on sham contracting.

People should be properly classified in their employment and, where they are subject to minimum wage, that wage must be paid. Indeed, part of the legislation before the House is to ensure, for the first time, criminal penalties would apply to wage theft, and members opposite will vote against that. For the first time ever there'll be sufficiently strong penalties to ensure that people are not underpaid, including a quantum of benefits obtained, which means that the financial penalty will actually, for the first time ever, provide a disincentive to underpayment. Members opposite want to vote against that measure. For the first time ever, people who are in casual employment will have a strong, secure, consistent pathway to move from casual employment to permanent employment, and members opposite want to vote against that as well.