House debates

Monday, 22 February 2021

Questions without Notice

Workplace Relations

2:33 pm

Photo of Josh BurnsJosh Burns (Macnamara, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Prime Minister. Alex is a delivery driver for Uber and Deliveroo. He worked through the pandemic, providing food to Australians in isolation. Alex earns well below the national minimum wage. What's complicated about making sure Alex earns no less than the minimum wage?

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

I thank the member for his question. Members opposite think that it would be a very simple thing to determine precisely how an independent contractor should be paid. It's simply not. The issue with respect to delivery drivers is first and foremost one of safety. Those drivers are, of course, to be covered in precisely the same way in health and safety laws as other employees, and that is one thing that has to be driven home at all levels of government, particularly in the states and territories that are responsible for those laws. But the idea that, somehow, all the independent contractors in this economy can be cherry-picked and that any one person or a government can precisely tell you how they should be remunerated above and beyond the independent contracts that they work out with their employers?

One thing you can absolutely do to protect the position of a person such as the one who was the subject of the question is make absolutely sure that, when they are an independent contractor, that is exactly what they are and they're not being placed in the position of an independent contractor when they are in another type of employment. That is what is known as sham contracting. One of the things that the government bill before the House does is double the fines for sham contracting. We ensure that you cannot have a mischaracterisation of an employee, like that just mentioned. If they are an independent contractor then they can be engaged as such, but if they are something other than that then they need to be engaged in that way. To protect workers of exactly that type, to ensure they are getting the contracts they deserve and that they are being categorised properly, we have before the parliament an increase in the amount of fines applicable to sham contracting, from $9,980 for an individual and up to $99,900 for a body corporate—a doubling of the fines for sham contracting.

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

The minister will pause for a second. The minister has certainly given some context, but this was a very specific question about the minimum wage. He really needs to address that in his answer to be relevant to the question.

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

This side of government is doing things, practical things, in its bill to ensure that contractors are protected, including from sham contracts. The members opposite are intending to vote against that.