Labour Hire Licensing Repeal Bill

Bills, In Parliament, Speeches

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (17:13): I rise on behalf of the Greens to oppose the repeal of the Labour Hire Licensing Act. I note that, back in February when the Treasurer brought this bill into this place, he uttered only 56 words before seeking leave to insert the remainder of his second reading explanation into Hansard without him reading it out loud. In that, he outlined that the government had received numerous written submissions, which were apparently made to the office of the Treasurer, including from industry representative groups and small businesses, outlining their confusion, angst and concerns regarding the scheme. 

As a result of this, the Attorney-General then undertook to closely review the issues raised and, in consultation with Consumer and Business Services, they then made it clear to this industry that the current Marshall government would not be going ahead with this legislation. I note in the very small number of words—those 56 words—with which the Treasurer introduced this repeal bill that he noted that the Labor Hire Licensing Act 2017 had been introduced by the former government. 

It may have been introduced by the former government but it was passed by the entire parliament. Parliament makes the laws, not the government. This was a law for which there was a great need, a need that has not been addressed at a federal level, which not only was debated in this place and the other place for many, many hours but also went through a select committee. This is a law that anyone who saw the Four Corners expose knows we need. This is a law that we are told is too much red tape because 90 per cent of this industry is apparently doing the right thing. 

As did the Hon. Kyam Maher when we first debated this, I recognise that there are many people in this industry doing the right thing. The 10 per cent doing the wrong thing are, of course, those to whom this act applies—10 per cent. That is one in 10 of everyone in this industry having been found to be doing the wrong thing. This is an industry known for phoenixing. This is an industry known for exploiting the most vulnerable workers. This is an industry that trades on portraying itself as something it is not. This is an industry where that red tape might as well be equated to the blood of those workers, where health and safety is sacrificed, where wages are sacrificed, where conditions are sacrificed and where a fair go, if you are willing to have a go, is absolutely sacrificed. 

I am not willing to allow this government to get away with flouting the laws of this state. This labour hire act that we currently have is the current law of this state, but the Attorney-General and the Treasurer have indicated, and used their departments to indicate, to this industry that they will not be applying this law. Here we have a repeal bill that is based on the ‘confusion, angst and concern’ of a few hand-picked representatives of those who have the ear of government, but certainly does not stand up for the exploited workers with whom I have met through my work in recent years with the National Union of Workers. 

I had occasion to meet with these workers in a small lounge room in Belair Athol, who told me stories of being too scared to take any time off, to take leave to go back home, to take any sick leave. These are people who were sleeping in their cars because the shifts were so close together. These are people who were getting by on what you would have to say were unacceptably low wages. These are people who were working for companies that were supplying the Woolworths and Coles of this country with that ‘fresh food’ that they proclaim and love the consumers to go and buy. 

We know that D’Vine Ripe does not like us pointing out that they are Perfection Fresh. I am sure that they do not like these labour hire licensing laws very much because it means that they cannot exploit their workers anymore, but this Marshall government is happy to thumb its nose at the current law of the land and stand up for the 10 per cent doing the wrong thing. This is similar to shop trading hours, where that bill came to this place and the Marshall government tried to have its way with this parliament, but failed. The Treasurer then basically operates by stealth and wages a campaign flouting the current laws that this parliament has made. 

There is no respect for this parliament in this bill that comes before us today because this bill is a straight repeal bill. It is not an amendment bill; it does not seek to address the issues of angst, confusion and concern, but it certainly wipes away all the issues of protection of work health and safety, standards and job security. We will not cop it. This parliament will speak loud and clear against the government’s attempt to repeal the entire act. To have this sit on the Notice Paper, hanging over the head of the industry as a sign that perhaps the department does not have to actually implement the laws of the land, is an affront. 

This should be going to a vote. The government rails against it going to a vote because they know what the result will be. They know that a repeal bill is a pathetic excuse for them not winning the vote the last time in the last parliament, so they are having another go, and now that they are the government they think they can control the department. That is unacceptable. That is not democracy. That is certainly not something that most Australians would expect in terms of protection for workers in this country. 

We are a proud nation that has respect for workers, that has workers’ rights, and we have that fine tradition to uphold. We will not be signing off those workers’ rights by letting the government play politics in this place with bills that sit on the Notice Paper like this one and like the rate capping bill where, because they do not get their way and because they do not have the numbers in the parliament, they play politics to enact their polemics. 

Bring on a vote because then we will know the numbers for sure. Here today in our speeches we will make our position loud and clear and we will hope that the department will see and respect the will of the parliament, not the whim of the government. Otherwise, why do we not just see the Firearms Act or the Road Traffic Act not complied with either? While I am on that, I have one final piece of advice for the Treasurer: the Liberal Marshall government came to power promising to amend the Road Traffic Act to increase speed limits. Why are you continuing red tape there but not here?