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Thursday, 24 October 2019
Page: 5411

Ms CHESTERS (Bendigo) (15:50): Thank you, Deputy Speaker. I might blush if people keep talking about what is going to happen in the next few weeks!

I want to take a moment to remind the House what the subject of the MPI is, because it appears that the minister representing the government has kind of missed what we are trying to get at. The subject of the MPI is: 'The failure of the Morrison government to acknowledge and address structural problems in the economy, including record high underemployment and record low wage growth'.

There are some structural problems in our community and the government keeps glossing over them and throwing out these tinkering programs and suggesting that they are going to be the be all and end all—and they're not. And the stats speak for themselves. The previous speaker said that women have never had it so good—that things are going really well. Well, the stats just do not back that up. Australian women are $800 a year worse off than they were last year. The reality is that women are worse off, and we need to start to talk about why. Cuts to penalty rates is one of the reasons that some women are worse off. Women who work in hospital and retail—the majority of the workforce in these sectors targeted by this government—had a penalty rate cut. Here we are almost at the end of those staged cuts and women are worse off.

Women predominantly work in low-wage industries—in award based industries—whether that be in care, community or retail. They are working in insecure jobs and part-time jobs. But we don't hear the government talking about how they are going to address those structural issues. Instead, they say, 'It's great; the gender pay gap is closing, because men's wages are dropping.' That's not addressing the structural problems that we have in this economy. It's not addressing the fact that we have stagnant wages growth and that people are, on average, in real terms, earning less today—and, in some cases, less than they did a decade ago.

The government have no plan to address the insecure work crisis that we are experiencing. Today you are more likely to be employed as a casual, as labour hire or in an insecure arrangement than have a full-time job. Those opposite probably walked out of high school or walked out of university into a job for life. Today that is a distant past. It is almost a myth. You meet young people today who are leaving school who say, 'What do you mean a job for life?'—not realising that their parents or their grandparents could do that. Today those jobs don't exist.

The other alarming statistic that the government is not taking seriously is underemployment. Almost two million Australians are underemployed and looking for work. These are the people you want to get behind. These are the people who are desperate for and wanting to do more work. People are working more than four jobs. This is a crisis; yet the government has no plan—no strategy whatsoever; no urgent crisis summit—to deal with the fact that people are trying to make ends meet by working for four different employers.

How is that helping our productivity? How is that helping our economy? How is it efficient to be working for four different people? Just consider the paperwork involved in working for four different people—not to mention the increased volume of work involved for some of our agencies with labour hire. I guess we can't expect the government to take on big business when it comes to labour hire, when they won't even sort it out in their own departments. This government is one of the worse for labour hire. We learnt through Senate estimates that at the Department of Veterans' Affairs, which is so proud to say it supports our veterans, 45 per cent of the time the person who picks up the phone is going to be someone who is working for a labour hire contractor. In the Department of Veterans' Affairs, where we want to have the most tailored and direct support for people, it is labour hire. And it is not just DVA; it is across the Australian Public Service. This government is addicted to labour hire. They just wash their hands—and its actually more expensive. We also learnt that through estimates—that it is not good economic management.

We also know about and need to point out the underspend in TAFE—$1 billion. There are 150,000 fewer apprentices than 10 years ago. This government has no plan to address the long-term structural problems that we have in our economy. We need a government that will. People want full-time work, if we give them the chance and if we help make it happen.