House debates

Tuesday, 23 May 2023

Questions without Notice

Workplace Relations

2:38 pm

Photo of Dan RepacholiDan Repacholi (Hunter, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations. What is the Albanese Labor government doing to close the labour hire loophole that currently lets employers undercut workers' pay?

Photo of Mr Tony BurkeMr Tony Burke (Watson, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations) Share this | | Hansard source

I want to thank the member for Hunter for the question. I also want to thank him for taking me out to Mount Thorley last week to meet with miners there. I also thank the member for Hunter, just like his neighbour the member for Paterson, for being tireless in fighting for the wages and conditions of mineworkers.

When I was there last week one of the workers I met with had only recently become a permanent employee of the company. He'd worked for 10 years as a labour hire employee. He didn't blame the company for this. He said that it's all over the industry and if it's going to be fixed it has to be fixed everywhere. One of the things he said to me was: 'It's a bit ridiculous. I was doing the same job as the person I was working beside, with rubbish conditions, and being paid less.' This is because of a labour hire loophole where, in this industry, the casuals—you normally think of casuals in terms of casual loading—doing the exact same work don't just lose security; they're even on a lower hourly rate than the permanent workers they're working beside. I know there's been some interest in this in the newspapers over the last couple of days. One business has claimed that they've calculated exactly how much closing the labour hire loophole will cost them. Given that we haven't finalised the legislation, I'm not sure how they did the calculation. But my favourite part was a headline today. It began with the words 'union admits.' I thought, oh, no. Whenever you see the word 'admits,' you think, okay, this will be trouble.

Photo of Peter DuttonPeter Dutton (Dickson, Liberal Party, Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

Could it be corruption? Could it be the CFMEU?

Photo of Milton DickMilton Dick (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! The Leader of the Opposition will cease interjecting.

Photo of Mr Tony BurkeMr Tony Burke (Watson, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations) Share this | | Hansard source

And here's what it said, 'Admits Labor policy aims to drive up pay.' They've got us! Labor policy aims to drive up pay. That's exactly why we're determined to close the Labor loophole, and it's exactly why those opposite are so determined to keep the loophole. They've never seen a tax loophole that they didn't want to keep forever, and they've never seen a loophole that drives down wages that they didn't want to defend just as earnestly. The Manager of Opposition Business has described this as a made-up issue. That's his description of it. Well, it's not a made-up issue if you're a casual working side by side and being paid less. It's not a made-up issue for two workers with the same expertise, on the same job, with the same classification, one being played less than the other. For them, it's not a made-up issue. For the mine workers dealing with this, it's not a made-up issue, and for the government that's determined to act, this is a loophole we're determined to close.