SPEECH - It's time to scrap Mr Morrisons dodgy labour hire laws
18 October 2021
I am pleased to stand to speak on this motion moved by the member for Paterson because, like the member for Paterson, I'm acutely aware of the negative impact that this tired eight-year-old Liberal government has had on job security and wages for people in the Newcastle and Hunter region.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to one of the biggest economic crises in Australian history. Yet, unlike previous Labor governments, that successfully navigated the turmoil of earlier economic crises with a strong recovery program, this government has been found very wanting. The Prime Minister had two jobs this year: a speedy and effective rollout of the vaccine, and quarantine. He failed at both, costing millions of workers and their families their livelihoods and wellbeing.
Nowhere has this incompetence been felt harder than in the Newcastle and Hunter region. In June last year, Newcastle's unemployment rate reached its highest level in 17 years. Following nearly a decade of almost non-existent wage growth, the people of Newcastle need a government that's willing to take on the big issues facing workers in this country—issues like the increased use of labour hire companies to avoid proper wages and work conditions.
People in insecure work, like those employed by labour hire firms, are some of the most vulnerable workers in our country. Being in insecure work means that people can't plan for their lives. They struggle to pay their rent or mortgages. They always have to worry if they'll be able to pay their weekly bills. Australians in precarious work—like contractors, freelancers, gig workers and those on temporary contracts or working in labour hire—miss out on the many benefits of a permanent job, like fair pay, guaranteed work hours, leave entitlements and job security. When people don't have a stable job, they have less money to spend in their local economy, and that hurts all of us.
The issue of labour hire and insecure work is one that extends far beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. Australian workers today face some of the most precarious work conditions and arrangements of any industrial country. This government will tell you that this precariousness is natural or inevitable, but it's not. It's the result of years of deliberate policy decisions made by Liberal governments to sell out working men and women. The Prime Minister tries to market an image of his government as working for the people, but this government never has and never will. The Prime Minister can say what he wants, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating. This government's policy decisions have consistently prioritised profits over people and the interests of big business over workers. This government has always cared more about the national budget than the household budget of a family in Wallsend or Minmi. Instead of cracking down on cowboy labour-hire firms, this Prime Minister and his government want to give them the green light to continue to exploit workers. They have fought against an increase in the minimum wage. They've created an amnesty now for the dodgy employers who did not pay their workers adequate super entitlements. They've tried to implement Work Choices 2.0 and deliberately suppressed wage growth for hardworking Australians.
Even in my electorate this government has shown that they're no strangers to exploitative labour hire practices. In 2019 the Morrison government placed a cap on public sector hiring, which meant that agencies like the Australian Taxation Office in Newcastle were forced to employ temporary staff under labour hire firms. Last year it was revealed that the Morrison government was spending a jaw-dropping $5 billion per year on labour hire firms within the Australian Public Service, a decision that has not only cost taxpayers more money but which has also left workers employed by these labour hire firms receiving less pay than their colleagues sitting next to them. More recently, we saw BHP tell its miners from the Mount Arthur mine in the Hunter to pack their bags and move interstate if they wanted to have a job—or maybe just resign. Those 80 miners were employed by labour hire companies.
As the member for Newcastle, I'll always stand up for the rights of workers and fight to protect Novocastrians from wage theft, insecure work and the exploitation of working families. That's why an Albanese Labor government has a plan to improve job security for all Australians. Labor believes in the simple principle that if you do the same job then you should not be paid less. We will crack down on cowboy labour hire firms and guarantee 'same job, same pay' for everyone.