House debates

Wednesday, 17 February 2021

Questions without Notice

Workplace Relations

3:07 pm

Photo of Meryl SwansonMeryl Swanson (Paterson, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Defence) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is for the Prime Minister. Can the Prime Minister confirm that, under his news media code legislation, media companies have the right to compulsory arbitration but casual employees will have to get the agreement of their employer before they have access to arbitration?

3:08 pm

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

The access to arbitration—I'm very happy to explain it again—under the much stronger casual conversion—

Mr Falinski interjecting

Ms Claydon interjecting

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The minister can just pause for a second. The members for Warringah and Newcastle can leave under standing order 94(a) and continue their conversation outside—Mackellar! Sorry, Zali, you didn't say anything. I thank the member for Mackellar for owning up. The minister has the call.

The members for Warringah and Newcastle then left the chamber.

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

The access to arbitration, which would apply to the much stronger, much broader rights for conversion from casual to permanent that are contained in our bill are precisely the same access to arbitration that exists in all comparable NES matters in the Fair Work Act, which the Labor Party brought into being in 2009. What you have, at the moment, is that in some awards you have a current ability for an employee to request conversion to permanent of an employer—in some awards—but that does not apply to all awards. For instance, as I noted, one award it doesn't apply to is coalmining awards. The government's bill extends the casual conversion provision to the National Employment Standards. That means it covers the entire workforce. It's also a stronger provision because the onus is on the employer to make the offer to the employee, not the employee to request. So a stronger right of conversion applies across the entire workforce in the NES and, being in the NES, it is subject to the same arbitration and enforceability provisions that exist and that members opposite created to all other NES matters and they are enforceable in exactly the same way.

So the question is: why would you be looking at a bill that provides a consistent, strong, enforceable pathway for casuals who've worked regular shifts over the last six months to convert to permanency and vote against it? That is putting politics above the benefits that can accrue to ordinary working Australians if they want to choose to move from regular casual shifts to permanent employment.