Speech to House of Representatives
29 November 2021
Watch the speech here
I rise today to stand up for the workers of the Hunter, who the Morrison government has left behind. I'm pleased to be supporting the Fair Work Amendment (Same Job, Same Pay) Bill 2021, because this bill goes to the heart of the issue. Labor has a plan to help deliver secure work and fair pay. We know workers who are shoulder to shoulder deserve the same pay for the same job. We on this side know just how hard Australians work. We really do. You need to look no further than my electorate of Paterson for endless examples of hardworking people making a profound difference every day. Indeed the Hunter region is home to so many hardworking men and women who want to provide a good life for their families and do their bit for our nation and our economy.
I want to speak a bit more about the miners in my region. They are proud people who take so much pride in their work, and they do because they understand that their contribution makes such an incredible difference to our national economy. They know that their industry builds our hospitals, our schools, our roads, just to name a few. But these workers, like many, are being exploited because of the failings of this Morrison government. These workers often go to the very same worksite and work shoulder to shoulder with other people doing exactly the same job yet get paid thousands of dollars less per year—exactly the same job but not the same pay. Why? Because the Morrison government has bastardised the labour-hire system. This government is allowing the exploitation of workers. Let's be clear about this. This government doesn't want to legislate and regulate. They want to turn a blind eye to the issues for working Australians, and this is one of the biggest ones: getting the same pay for the same job. This government allows cowboy operators—and that's all they are—to exploit workers, allows them to be anti-competitive, and continues to stand by while Australian works are cheated out of a fair go. That's the bottom line.
Labour hire is an important system and it plays a vital role particularly in periods of high demand and supporting that high demand. You might need to hire some workers in, but it's not meant to be a perennial, perpetual situation where people's wages are lower day in, day out, year in, year out. It wasn't designed to enable workers to be exploited; it just wasn't. The definition of 'casual worker' shouldn't be used to take away people's pay, their entitlements—or, frankly, their job security, which is the other big problem. When you're a labour-hire worker you can lose your job just like that.
That's why Labor will legislate to create a fair test to determine when a worker can be classified as casual. That's why Labor will restore the Fair Work Commission to the centre of our workplace relations system by abolishing the discredited and highly politicised Registered Organisations Commission and the Australian Building and Construction Commission. That's why Labor will extend the powers of the Fair Work Commission so that it can create minimum standards for gig economy workers as well.
Voters in the next election will have two very stark choices: they can support a Labor government to deliver job security and ensure that you and your family take home more pay; or they can support the Morrison government, after eight years, who allow penalty rates to continue to be cut, launch an attack on super and won't even add the words 'job security' to the Fair Work Act. That's what this government has done. Like Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said, Labor is determined to shape Australia's recovery in the same spirit by which we got through this pandemic: together—and that's what we need. The intention of the bill is to bring Australians together with, in this case, a very straightforward concept: same job, same pay. And we know that life can be better with Labor; it is the choice for same job, same pay.