Senate debates

Monday, 22 February 2021

Matters of Public Importance

Job Security

4:48 pm

Photo of Carol BrownCarol Brown (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Tourism) Share this | Hansard source

I'm pleased to speak on this matter of public importance, because the Morrison government's failure to address job insecurity is hurting working families and damaging our national economy. It has become a major structural issue in the Australian economy whereby people who do not have access to secure work are being left behind by this government. It is fundamentally unfair not just for workers but also for those businesses who are doing the right thing, because the use of certain forms of insecure work gives companies that exploit workers an unfair advantage against honest employers. The share of workers in insecure work is continuing to increase. In my home state of Tasmania, we continue to suffer from the highest underemployment rate of any state, at 8.9 per cent. There are 37½ thousand Tasmanians who simply can't get the hours of work they need to make ends meet. This is not secure employment. This does not enable people to live with confidence, to plan their life, to buy a house or to do any of those things that require secure employment and secure finances. Australian workers, our national economy and businesses will all benefit from more job security because we all do better when we all do better. Better pay and a fairer industrial relations system will reap benefits for everyone in our society, from the top to the bottom. That is the approach Australians can expect from an Albanese Labor government; not so from Mr Morrison, however.

This Prime Minister continues to practise the same old, failed Liberal economic policies of a race to the bottom, the lowest common denominator. In contrast, Labor believes that secure work is an essential component of being able to build a secure life. Secure work allows workers to take leave when they're sick or need to care for a family or household member without putting their jobs at risk. It means that they can have the confidence to spend money to stimulate the Australian economy, boost growth and create more jobs. Good, decent, secure jobs are becoming fewer and fewer with the rise of insecure employment. Yet this government has no plan to arrest that rise. Indeed, they encourage it.

What we have seen in the past 12 months with the COVID pandemic is that insecure work not only poses a risk to individual workers but poses a risk to our society as a whole. It is the case that when the pandemic began, casuals, who account for about a quarter of the Australian workforce, lost their jobs eight times faster than those in more secure forms of employment. To rub salt into their wounds, it was an active and deliberate decision taken by this Prime Minister to exclude around one million casual workers from access to JobKeeper, forcing many onto Centrelink. Now that was a measure that the former contributor to this discussion, Senator McDonald, didn't mention in her contribution here today—that this government took the deliberate and active decision to exclude one million casual workers, forcing them onto Centrelink.

But, of course, casual work is not the only form of insecure work. When you add in many contractors, freelancers, gig workers and those on temporary contracts or working in labour hire, what we see is that nearly half the workforce misses out on the many benefits of a permanent job. We know that. Who in our workforce, in our society, is more likely to be stuck in insecure work? Women, young people and those from a migrant background. In fact, one thing we have seen from the inevitable recovery in the jobs market, after the first recession in Australia in 30 years, is that the increase in jobs has very substantially been composed of insecure jobs. This has implications not only for people in those jobs but for our broader recovery and for our potential future economic growth because we know that those in insecure work have much less confidence to spend. But these are the things that the government can do to combat the insecure work—(Time expired)


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