Wednesday, 17 February 2021
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Prime Minister. Can the Prime Minister confirm that schedule 1, part 1, section 66M of his industrial relations bill means that, when casuals are refused the right to convert to permanent employment, their only remedy to fix the problem is to go to the Federal Court?
The remedy for dispute is precisely the same as the remedy for dispute now under the Fair Work Act that the opposition designed. It's exactly the same. They would have people believe that somehow the very strong, consistent, now broadly applicable right to convert from casual to permanent employment, which is enshrined in this bill, is not real or is not enforceable or is somehow not a significant improvement on the situation that presently exists at the moment. It is a very significant improvement to the benefit of workers on the position that exists at the moment. Its enforceability mechanism is precisely the same as it is for dispute resolutions that exist at moment. More importantly, it is a stronger right to convert.
What happens at the moment, for the benefits of all of the members of the House, is that some awards have in them a basis upon which conversion to permanency from casual can occur and that is based on a request from the employee to the employer. This legislation makes it a responsibility of the employer to offer that right to the employee. If they don't, then it is subject to the same dispute resolutions that exist in the present system for all comparative matters. But also this now applies across the board. Places where there is no right to convert at the moment, no process, no enforceability, such as in the coalmining industry, for the first time ever will have a strong, consistent, soundly enforceable pathway for conversion to permanency.
Members opposite ask us whether or not people will be better off or worse off. If you have a strong, consistent pathway to conversion to permanency, you will be better off. If the Labor Party votes against that, you will be worse off. If you have strong penalties for sham contracting, which are in this bill, you will be better off. If the Labor opposition votes against that, you will be worse off. If you have, for the first time ever, proper civil penalties that mean that there will be less underpayment, you will be better off. If Labor votes against that, you will be worse off. If, for the first time ever, you have a criminal penalty for wage theft, you will be better off. If the Labor Party vote against that, you will be worse off. If we reinvigorate the enterprise agreement system so there are more deals where people, on average, get paid 69 per cent more than on the awards, you will be better off. If the Labor Party votes against that, you will be worse off. What they have to do is explain to the Australian people why they would vote against measure after measure that improves peoples' lives.