Monday, 22 February 2021
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Industrial Relations. Is someone who delivers food on a bike through an app like Deliveroo a worker? Should Australian workers be paid at least the minimum wage? If not, why have one?
Well, there are three essential types of workers in Australia. They are independent contractors, they are people on awards and they are people on enterprise agreements. And all of them, of course, work and are workers. The definition of 'worker' in the United Kingdom context is completely different from that in Australia.
But what the Leader of the Opposition essentially would try and have people believe in public, which is why he gives speeches about these things and then changes them overnight, is that it is somehow a simple thing, a thing without economic consequences, to move an entire group of people who are presently independent contractors into the award system, onto a minimum wage, with all the benefits that flow from being on an award, such as sick leave benefits and so forth. That's what the Leader of the Opposition would try and have people believe.
That was one of two questions.
Mr Albanese interjecting—
No, there's another one then, which is whether they're a worker.
Mr Albanese interjecting—
That's right, but it enables him to deal with the subject in the way he has so far, and he's on the right side of the line—just. The minister has the call.
The Leader of the Opposition's question was: should all people who work in the Australian economy receive the minimum wage? Now, the sensible response to that is that all workers receive the minimum wage. What the Leader of the Opposition did was go out and give a speech, obviously meant to attract as much support as he possibly could during a desperate time, and this is what his speech said:
"[In a] a Labor government that I lead [I] will work with state and territory governments, unions and industry to develop portable entitlements for annual leave, sick leave and long service leave for Australians in insecure work."
What he was saying was that all workers in the Australian economy who don't presently get the minimum wage, all those benefits, will move on to those benefits. What we said is that would cost the Australian economy $20 billion, and that would manifest in a tax on business. And then, overnight, the speech mysteriously changed.
Opposition members interjecting—
Mr Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition asked: should Australian workers be paid at least the minimum wage? If not, why have one? The answer to that question is that if you change the remuneration structure from what it has traditionally been in Australia for 30 years, and all Australian workers received the types of benefits that the Leader of the Opposition is saying publicly that he would provide to them, the cost to business of that is $20 billion. If you move workers from the present system of remuneration to a new system of remuneration, the cost of that is $20 billion. So when the Leader of the Opposition or the member for Watson asks, 'Why is it complicated?' it's because a massive cost attaches to it. And when that cost was pointed out to members opposite, the promise changed overnight. The promise didn't even survive a single 24-hour period, because what they do is pretend to people that something that is complicated is simple.
He's only got a couple of seconds left, but I just say to the minister that the question didn't ask about alternatives. It asked about why the government was taking a certain stance. The minister has the call for the remaining few seconds.