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Thursday, 22 March 2012
Page: 3999


Ms LEY (Farrer) (13:19): by leave—I move opposition amendments (1) and (2):

(1)   Clause 2, page 2 (table item 2), omit the table item, substitute:

2. Schedule 1

1 January 2013

1 January 2013

(2)   Schedule 1, item 61, page 25 (after line 10), after section 789EA, insert:

789EB TCF outworkers not to be worse off

(1)   This Part applies in relation to a TCF outworker only to the extent to which, in a particular respect, the outworker would not be worse off.

(2)   A reference in subsection (1) to this Part includes a reference to any regulations made for the purposes of this Part.

(3)   The regulations may prescribe:

   (a)   what a particular respect is for the purposes of subsection (1); or

   (b)   the circumstances in which a TCF outworker would or would not be worse off for the purposes of subsection (1).

The first amendment relates to no worker being worse off. While we understand that there are numerous agendas—especially union agendas—being incorporated into this legislation, I restate the point that if amendments are required to the Fair Work Act they should be included with the review of the implementation of the Fair Work Act, something that is ongoing, something that is presumably quite comprehensive because it has been ongoing for a while and something that, when it comes back to this parliament, will include any problems that may exist as a result of this bill.

The amendment that no worker be worse off addresses the concerns of many outworkers—and I refer the government to the submissions that have been made to the inquiry that they so callously guillotined—that they will be worse off as a result of this amendment. The then Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Julia Gillard, now Prime Minister, promised that no worker would be worse off as a result of the Fair Work Act. Given that this is an amendment to the Fair Work Act we in the coalition are seeking to enshrine that promise within the bill. But we also wish to allay the concerns that have been raised with the coalition and also with the Senate Education, Employment and Workplace Relations Legislation Committee about the fact that workers may very well be worse off after this legislation is implemented. I remind members of the House of that promise that no worker would be worse off. Literally thousands of Australian workers are now being ripped off under the so-called modern awards. The flaws are being made obvious daily despite the ironclad promise from Labor that no worker would be worse off.

I ask the minister and the government to show some courage on this matter and accept that, in responding so energetically to the union agenda around the dwindling number of members of the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union, and in seeking to characterise people who actually are independent contractors as employees—something that offends the principles of the tax act, offends the principles of natural justice and is nonsense when considered in the context of this bill—the perverse outcome might very well be that workers will be worse off.

We stand by the most vulnerable and marginalised workers, who may be working in workplaces that have been described in the context of this bill. Those workers and their circumstances should never become a political football in this place. Those workers and their circumstances should be protected. Women who take an interest in the fashion supply chain in this country certainly understand that we want the clothes that we wear with pride—because they are made in Australia—not to be manufactured under conditions that have been described in media outlets from time to time, and which are entirely offensive.

I remind people in this place that the examples brought to the table in the context of this debate are already out of order and illegal, and are against state and federal legislation and the Fair Work Act itself. We stand by those workers and we will be moving an amendment that no worker will be worse off.

The second amendment concerns the time frame. If the government wants to jump into the process of examining and possibly amending its own Fair Work Act—and on the surface of it you would think was a sensible thing to do because if you implement an act and make major and extraordinary changes to it you should review how those changes are playing out in the system—then the government should incorporate the changes it thinks are so necessary that it has brought this legislation into the review process of the modern awards and into the review of the Fair Work Act. We therefore say that we want to delay the commencement of any legislation passed today that allows for the completion of the review into the Fair Work Act, and the government's response, prior to the commencement of this legislation. We believe the provisions of this bill should be considered only as part of that review, along with any changes proposed in any final and publicly available report resulting from that review, prior to commencement. (Time expired)

The SPEAKER: The question is that opposition amendments (1) and (2) be agreed to.