Thursday, 12 November 2020
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Industrial Relations, Senator Payne. The government has blocked amendments to allow the Fair Work Commission to hear disputes arising specifically from the Morrison government's hiring credit scheme, claiming its unfair dismissal laws are enough. Can the minister confirm that no casual workers with less than 12 months service are covered by the government's unfair dismissal protections?
I thank Senator Ciccone for the question. Let me start by saying that it is expected that the JobMaker hiring credit will support around 450,000 jobs for young people to move them back into employment, at a cost of $4 billion. We know that employers will be able to claim the JobMaker hiring credit for new jobs created over the 12-month period beginning 7 October for up to 12 months for each job. The credit itself is only available for additional jobs. Employers can't reduce their current workforce, by either dismissing employees or reducing their hours, to re-engage new workers performing the same work to receive the hiring credit. All employees have protections under existing industrial relations laws from unfair or unlawful dismissal, including non-genuine redundancies.
The rules exposure draft explanatory material makes clear:
The types of arrangements that would be prevented by the integrity provisions in the Act are varied but would include arrangements where an employer artificially inflates their employee headcount and/or payroll for a JobMaker period (for example, by terminating, or reducing the hours of, an existing older employee—
On relevance. The question was actually very narrow. It was about whether casuals with less than 12 months service are covered by the government's unfair dismissal provisions. The minister hasn't addressed that. The point is that they're excluded from protection.
To reiterate, I did say that all employees have protections under existing industrial relations laws from unfair or unlawful dismissal, including non-genuine redundancies. I was saying, before Senator Watt took a point of order, that the rules exposure draft explanatory material makes clear:
The types of arrangements that would be prevented by the integrity provisions in the Act are varied but would include arrangements where an employer artificially inflates their employee headcount and/or payroll—
The question goes to the government's unfair dismissal protections. The minister was asked to confirm that no casual employee with less than 12 months service is covered. On the basis of direct relevance, I ask her to return to that point.
Senator Wong, that was the question at the end of a preamble. I think the minister, by talking about those relevant provisions of the particular act, is being directly relevant. There's an opportunity to debate the merits of answers after question time.
I note in relation to unfair dismissal that, as I understand it, an eligible employee can make an unfair dismissal claim if they have been dismissed and consider their dismissal unfair. It's unlikely to be a valid reason for dismissal if an employer dismisses an employee to engage a new individual— (Time expired)
Did the government explain to Senator Hanson and Senator Roberts that, under the Morrison government's existing laws, casual employees with less than 12 months continuous service have no protection from unfair dismissal in the Fair Work Act? Did the government also explain that any worker, whether they are casual, part time or full time, employed by a small business who has worked less than 12 months service also has no protection from unfair dismissal claims?
I am absolutely confident that senators who come to this chamber to make decisions in voting on legislation make decisions based on their own views, their own perspectives, the information that they have at hand and the information that is available through the committee process, through the parliamentary process and through the engagement with government process. If those opposite wish to impugn the integrity of Senator Hanson and Senator Roberts that is a matter for them. But that is not something the government is going to do.
Did the government also explain to Senators Hanson and Roberts that they have exposed more than a million workers to being sacked without recourse, in the middle of the deepest recession in Australia in a century? Why is the government refusing to protect workers by making sure that those with a job get to keep that job?
I would reiterate what I said in relation to Senator Ciccone's first supplementary question, and that was about the manner in which senators come to this chamber and make the decisions they make about how they vote, what they support and what they don't support. They engage with the full repertoire of information that's available to them. They engage with government. I'm sure they engage with those opposite, although one would not be sure how productive that would be. Nevertheless, those processes are undertaken and senators make their own decisions. I don't impugn the integrity of senators who make their decisions based on the information before them. I'm not going to impugn Senator Hanson. I'm not going to impugn Senator Roberts. If those opposite and Senator Ciccone wish to do so, that is a matter for them.