Tuesday 14th November 2017
Labour Hire Licensing Bill
Adjourned debate on second reading.
(Continued from 28 September 2017.)
The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (11:41): I rise on behalf of the Greens to support, with some reservations, the Labour Hire Licensing Bill 2017. This bill creates a state-based licensing system for labour hire providers making it unlawful to operate without a licence, or for employers who engage labour hire workers to use an unlicensed operator. The bill comes about after the 2015 Four Corners exposé and investigation into the exploitation of migrant workers and a subsequent report by the Economic and Finance Committee, undertaken and completed in 2016, into the labour hire industry in this state, which reflects work that was done most notably in Queensland and indeed somewhat at a commonwealth level.
The Greens have pushed for better treatment of those who are part of the workforce and indeed would have brought to this parliament a labour hire licensing bill had the government not acted. I understand that the unions I have spoken to in this space—and I would particularly like to make note of the National Union of Workers and the AWU—are supportive, and I think most members of the community would be quite supportive, that we should be treating these workers and people in this industry with not just dignity and respect but indeed the common application of rightful laws to ensure that they are not exploited in our state.
In introducing this bill back in August in the other place, the minister noted that it was not a perfect bill and that the government was quite open to amendments. I know that there are many amendments tabled, both from government and opposition quarters, and the Greens look forward to debating each of those on their merits but certainly do not want to delay the passage of legislation that will protect workers in this state.
I recently met some of those workers from Perfection Fresh, formerly trading as D’VineRipe, in a house where over a dozen workers gathered to tell me that they were still being exploited. We can stop this exploitation at some level, and we can ensure that people get a fair day's pay for a fair day's work and are not given undue and shocking conditions in this nation that should do much better by its workers. With those few words, I commend the second reading and I look forward to the committee stage.
The Hon. K.L. VINCENT (11:44): I simply wanted to briefly place on the record that the Dignity Party also supports this bill which, as other members have noted, arises from a Four Corners exposé into the exploitation of workers. This is obviously a very important measure, particularly symbolised by the fact that the Master Builders Association and the CFMEU have come together, which is not a thing that happens very often, to say the least. It shows us how important it is that we address these issues and the level of support for this bill that has been before us for some time. With those few brief words, I wish to lend my strong support to both this bill and to workers' rights generally.
The Hon. R.L. BROKENSHIRE (11:46): We have had some correspondence on this particular bill and the Australian Conservatives advise that there are some concerns over this bill. In fact, we have spoken to business and workplace advisers and we understand that some areas, including the wine industry, still have serious concerns over amendments that have been placed regarding the Labour Hire Licensing Bill 2017. I note that since the initial tabling of this bill and debate in another house, as it has come up here, the government has advised us that it is moving amendments. The problem is that those amendments appear to us not to go far enough to support the concerns over the definition of 'labour hire services' in clause 6 of the bill.
The proposed amendment does not apply to external service providers that are not involved in the provision of labour, while at the same time it is capturing labour hire providers providing temporary labour. There is some information that I received only a few days ago that says there should be a new definition of 'labour hire services'. The wine industry, as one group that has concerns, has considered whether there are existing definitions in employment regulations that can be utilised with appropriate modifications. All the federal awards (known as the 'modern awards') covering private sector employers and employees contain a definition of 'labour hire' at Appendix 1. The following definition is included in all 122 industry and occupational boards and has been developed by the Fair Work Commission:
On-hire means the on-hire of an employee by their employer to a client where such employee works under the general guidance and instruction of the client or a representative of the client.
I understand from what is stated here in this letter to me that the definition is understood and accepted by both employers and unions. The South Australian Wine Industry Association has modified the award definition to ensure that it not only applies where the labour hire provider engages the worker under contract of service known as employment, but also where the worker is engaged under contract for services as an independent contractor.
Further, to ensure that commercial services where an external service provider undertakes, for example, mechanical repairs, winemaking, bottling or grape crushing, do not fall under the definition of labour hire services, it is necessary that current clause 6(2)(d) be removed. This is the request from this one industry sector and is because a key characteristic of the external service that is being provided is that the client does not exercise guidance, instruction or control. If clause 6(2)(d) were to be retained, these non labour hire services could still be taken to be part of labour hire services as defined in clause 6.
There are proposed amendments that we are considering at the moment. There are unintended consequences that could have ramifications for a broad range of industry sectors but in the one in which my family works and which I know well, namely agriculture, as has been highlighted here by the South Australian Wine Industry Association, the unintended consequences bring in all those other people who come in for mechanical repairs or who just do the winemaking or the bottling or the crushing.
There are a lot of situations on farms where farmers may not directly employ a large number of people. They employ some family but then they bring in people to do specific jobs. In fact, on average, seven jobs in South Australia are created through the value-adding of requirements for people to come in in the very short term and do certain work, sometimes specialist work, on a farm. That is of real concern.
The way it is at the moment is a little bit like tying in the situation we had some years ago where third parties became equally as responsible in the trucking industry for a load shift or for overloading. Even in my case as a dairy farmer, I can be in bed at 11 o'clock at night. A tanker comes and pumps out our vat and that happens to put that tanker over its weight approvals. We are now responsible for that even though we did not load the milk onto that truck and we were not even present when it occurred. There are real concerns about that and we believe that there are similar concerns with that analogy with respect to this labour hiring bill.
We reserve our right to look at moving amendments in committee and we make it clear to the government and opposition and crossbench members that, at this point in time, we are not committed to absolutely supporting the third reading of this bill.
The Hon. J.E. HANSON (11:52): Today, I am happy to say that I speak in support of the second reading of the labour hire bill that is before us. Unfortunately, the reputation of the industry as a whole has suffered in recent times following a very well-publicised ABC Four Corners report about a number of state and federal inquiries which have exposed varying degrees of exploitation and unscrupulous behaviour by rogue labour hire providers. There are a range of measures in the bill that will help restore confidence in and promote the integrity of the industry.
Some key clauses of the bill establish a chain of responsibility, which means that all parties to a transaction for the supply of labour hire services have a legal liability to do the right thing. For example, end users of labour hire workers will not be able to turn a blind eye to worker exploitation. In doing so, this bill will improve the business competitiveness and viability of labour hire companies that comply with their legal obligations and operate ethically and responsibly.
The public register of licensees is another important measure and will be critical for the success of the scheme. The register will provide users of labour hire, both businesses and workers, with the assurance that they are entering into an arrangement with a licensed provider. For persons providing labour hire services, the register provides them with an advertisement of their services and public recognition that they are fit and proper.
Additionally, the robust set of conditions and requirements that a labour hire provider must meet to obtain and continue to hold a licence will help ensure that legitimate labour hire businesses do not face competition from shonky labour hire operators who structure their arrangements to avoid obligations in a race to the bottom.
In introducing this bill, the government has sought to balance the need to provide protections for vulnerable workers and eliminate opportunities for unscrupulous providers to operate within the rules, thus minimising the administrative burden on the labour hire providers who operate ethically and in compliance with all their legal obligations. This bill achieves that. It will protect both workers and those labour hire providers who are doing the right thing. Therefore, I am happy to say that this government supports the bill.
Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. T.J. Stephens.