Monday, 22 February 2021
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Industrial Relations. When asked whether gig workers should be paid at least the minimum wage, the Minister for Industrial Relations said, 'It's complicated'. Luigi from Sydney worked as a full-time food delivery rider for Deliveroo for five years, earning well below the minimum wage. He had to cover all his own costs and expenses. What is complicated about making sure that workers like Luigi earn no less than the minimum wage when they're working in Australia?
The difficulty that many governments have come into in trying to determine what an independent contractor should be paid outside the contract that they make with their employer is that that effort often ends in disaster, as it did for you with the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal.
In that instance, you determined, in your wisdom, that you would tell independent contracting truck drivers how they would get paid. That was subject to two findings which produced damning reviews into the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal. They both recommended that the system that Labor introduced in 2012 be abolished. They demolished the arguments for its retention in finding no clear link between remuneration and the safety of drivers. The mandatory pay rates—many of you will remember the protests that occurred at this stage—
Opposition members interjecting—
Order on my left! The member for Whitlam! The minister will pause for a second. He has been asked a question and he's entitled to compare and contrast, but that can't be the entirety of his answer. He has been going for a minute. The minister needs to direct himself to the question that's been asked.
There are eight to nine per cent of people in the Australian economy who are independent contractors. They include a very wide variety of individuals who contract directly with their employers. That is the system that existed under Labor, under the Fair Work Act, and that is the system which has been preserved with this government. We believe that those people who are subject to awards should be paid according to the award rates, and that those who receive enterprise agreement rates should be paid along those lines. Independent contracts are a valid method of paying individuals in our economy; that has been the case under Labor, and it is the case under this government.
As the Prime Minister noted, the only side of politics in Australia which suggests there should be a pay cut is the members opposite. What they propose should occur—
On direct relevance. The question goes specifically to those members who the government might define as independent contractors who are being paid less than the minimum wage. It doesn't refer to any other category of worker.
Yes, I do have to say that even though it was quite a long question, with a long preamble, the question essentially was why the minimum wage can't be paid. The minister does need to confine himself to that and be relevant to the question.
What the government does not propose to do is to take any money off any of those independent contractors, which is precisely what the Labor opposition proposes to do. What they propose to do is to provide entitlements to those individuals—