Closing the Loopholes

  • Speeches
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I, too, rise to speak on the Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Closing Loopholes No. 2) Bill 2023.

Last year we voted to make wage theft a crime and crack down on labour hire loopholes, and we introduced a new criminal offence for industrial manslaughter.

We recognised the critical role of our nation’s union delegates in helping to deliver safe, fair and productive workplaces.

Today we’re here with unfinished business.

Today we’re here to close more loopholes.

We’re here to protect more vulnerable workers.

And we’re here to make sure that our workplace laws are updated to reflect the evolution of work this century, including to address the rise of platforms and the reliance of so many workers on gig jobs to survive and get by. 

In this bill, we’re standing up for those gig workers and ensuring that they’re not exploited, by allowing the Fair Work Commission to set minimum standards for gig workers.

It’s pretty simple, and it’s really not radical, because the Fair Work Commission have set standards for workers in this country for literally generations, and it’s time that they had the power to bring unions and platforms together to set basic minimum standards for this new form of work, gig work. 

We’ve heard time and time again over recent years just how bad gig work is for the people who are trying to survive on it and just how often they face below-minimum rates and unsafe conditions.

There was an extremely thorough Senate inquiry into this bill, led by our colleague Senator Tony Sheldon.

The Senate inquiry into the bill heard from delivery workers who were working 14-hour days just to try to survive and earning as little as $6 an hour.

Tragically the inquiry also heard that there have been 15 deaths in food delivery and rideshare since 2017 as these workers hustle for a decent wage.

Yesterday I met with delivery riders and I heard from Zhuoying, who is a delivery rider for HungryPanda.

She told me her story.

Her company dropped riders’ base delivery rate to $4 for motorcycle riders and $5 for bicycle riders, and they introduced bonuses for dangerous delivery deadlines.

That of course was without any form of consultation or any mechanism for objection on the part of the workers who were using the platform to make a wage and live.

It was without any form of negotiation. 

All we are doing is empowering unions, workers and the platforms to come together, deal with these issues and actually set minimum standards that make sense both for the workers in those sectors and for the platforms.

I also met delivery rider Mugdha yesterday, who was hit by a car while she was at work making deliveries.

She was left unconscious on the side of the road.

She had no access to workers compensation and no access to support.

She was forced to return to work without treatment, and today she lives in chronic pain as a result.

It should not be this way in Australia today.

These workers deserve safe jobs.

These workers deserve the same rights as other people who are working in Australia today.

I congratulate the Transport Workers Union for bringing the voices of these workers to the parliament and also to this legislation. 

It’s not just the food delivery platforms that we want to allow to go to Fair Work and set standards with their employees.

Gig work and casualisation are growing in our care sector as well.

Mary is a disability support gig worker.

Sometimes she needs to take her clients out and about to go for a coffee, to go to the pool or to go see a movie or she needs to clean their house, where she has to supply her own PPE, her own cleaning equipment and her own cleaning products.

These expenses are adding up for Mary because she’s not paid for them and she can’t claim them on tax.

All of that is happening while her pay is up to 46 per cent below the award.

We know that there was a push to exclude gig platforms operating in the care economy from these really important reforms.

It’s absolutely critical that platforms in the care economy have been included in this legislation.

We can go back to the aged-care royal commission, which said that care should prioritise direct employment over gig work.

At the very least we need to protect our essential care workers, our elders and others requiring care and support.

We need to protect them all by allowing Fair Work to be able to set some basic, minimum standards for the pay that people get and for the safety that they can expect in their workplace.

Again, this is not radical.

This is Australia, where people who do this really important work that we all now rely on absolutely deserve a basic minimum wage and they absolutely deserve a safe workplace. 

 All of the workers that I spoke to and that I’ve spoken about tonight deserve better.

They deserve a good job that they can count on.

This bill is going to help deliver that.

It will help close the door on exploitation and ensure that Australia doesn’t become a nation where survival depends on tips.

It will stop companies from jeopardising workers’ safety.

And the bottom line really is that it’s going to bring Fair Work into the 21st century.

It’s going to bring Fair Work in line with the way that work is organised today.

It is not a radical proposal, but Peter Dutton and the Liberal Party of course oppose every step, and we’ve heard that here in the chamber tonight.

We know that they want to keep wages low.

They tell us that every day.

We know they want to hold workers back, but we on this side of the chamber won’t stand for that. 

I really want to thank the workers and their unions who have stood up for this reform over many years.

This has taken literally hundreds and hundreds of workers speaking out and telling their stories, coming to the parliament and sharing their experiences, coming to Senate inquiry after inquiry and engaging with all of us here.

This is really down to them, and this legislation is really for them. 

This bill is just going to deliver some basic minimum standards for workers.

That’s what it’s going to do.

It’s going to deliver some basic safety standards for these workers.

Fair and safe workplaces are what Australians expect, and it’s what all Australian workers, and all workers who we invite to our shores to work in the essential jobs that we rely on, deserve.