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Thursday, 22 March 2012
Page: 3998


Mr BANDT (Melbourne) (13:15): It is with a great deal of pleasure that I rise to support the Fair Work Amendment (Textile, Clothing and Footwear Industry) Bill. The government is to be commended for introducing this legislation. I have a great deal of personal experience with this sector, having brought actions on behalf of the Textile Workers Union and many underpaid outworkers before the Federal Court over many years. After doing that for over a decade I can say with some certainty that pretty much every supposed factual comment made in the contributions from those on the opposition benches was wrong.

It is all well and good to talk about independent contractors but I have lost count of the number of times that I have encountered a worker who has been told that they will not get any work unless they get an NBN and pass themselves as an independent contractor. They can talk about people working up at the high end, but it is not at all uncommon to see a shirt that cost $200 selling in Burke Street and find that the person who made it was paid $2. With all that context, what is the worker going to do? The worker often finds themselves at the mercy of a middleman. If they stand up for their rights they simply do not get work in the future. I must say that in all my time working in this sector I never once saw a Howard government inspector ever set foot inside an outworker's home where they were doing work to ensure that that worker was getting super, work cover and annual leave.

We heard some outstanding comments about how this is going to destroy not only the industry but also outworkers. I will hold the member for Higgins and the member for Mayo to that. I think that we will find that it will not destroy the sector. But we will see ethical clothing made in this country. I will let the remarks that I have made many times before, both here and elsewhere, speak for my strong support for this bill. I commend the union, the church groups, the ethical clothing groups and the brave home workers who have had the courage to campaign for many years to bring this bill into being. With that, I commend the bill to the House.