House debates

Wednesday, 17 February 2021

Questions without Notice

Workplace Relations

3:02 pm

Photo of Julie OwensJulie Owens (Parramatta, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Prime Minister. Does the Prime Minister seriously expect casual workers to lawyer up and head off to the Federal Court to fight their employer for the right to permanent employment? How many casual workers does the Prime Minister seriously think have the resources to take their employer to Federal Court or the confidence that they'll keep their shifts afterwards?

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

The proposition which appears in that question, that the casual conversion rights in this bill are somehow not enforceable, is just absolutely wrong. The casual conversion rights in this bill are spread right across the field, they are much stronger than those that exist at the moment and they are enforceable in precisely the same way as every other safety net entitlement Labor put into the Fair Work Act when it introduced that act in 2009. Let me be clear: employers who do not comply with their obligations under the new casual conversion provisions will face precisely the same civil penalties as employers who do not comply with other safety net rights, like annual leave, paid personal and carers' leave, paid parental leave and paid public holidays.

I can tell the member that after 150 hours of consultation, employers were not necessarily overjoyed at the fact that they would face all those penalties based on a strong casual conversion system that requires the employer to offer that right to the employee. It was something, in fact, that many of them would have preferred not to have, because it is such a stronger system than exists at the moment. So the premise of your question is absolutely wrong. The process for resolving disputes about casual conversion under the bill are completely, 100 per cent, consistent with how disputes in resolution and safety night rights have been dealt with under the laws that Labor introduced in 2009—absolutely consistent! They're completely consistent enforcement mechanisms to those that exist and are attached to a much stronger, much broader applied right for casual conversion. The real question is: why would members opposite call for precisely this over many years, including unions during the consultations, and then, when it's on the table, vote against it?