Gig Economy & Closing Loopholes

04 September 2023


Well, this is week 1 of a two-week sitting of parliament, and we're straight back into faux outrage hour here in the Senate. You guys need a credibility check. Where was your outrage, how loud were your voices and how sincere was your concern when your mate former minister McCormack made exactly the kind of decision that you are so aghast at here today? You need a credibility check. This is faux outrage, and we see it time and time again in Senate question time, where you come in here and question decisions made by the government and policies the government is undertaking when you never had the courage or the guts to question anything in your government which touched on these areas. These are the same decisions you made in government.

Perhaps today, instead of criticising Minister Catherine King, who said quite clearly that she made these decisions in the national interest, and playing up your faux outrage, some self-reflection would be appropriate—some self-reflection on some of the decisions the former government made on the aviation sector, particularly during COVID, such as the decision to sit idly by and watch Virgin Australia collapse into administration. I don't remember outrage or a chorus of concern from those opposite when that happened, or when you oversaw the mass outsourcing of jobs and the labour hire mess that saw wages go down and conditions lessen across the aviation sector—I don't remember an hour in this place dedicated to your outrage then—or when you commissioned the Harris review into Sydney Airport, only to sit on it, or, indeed, when you denied workers at dnata JobKeeper, leaving those workers and their families in the lurch. I don't remember a single minute of debate that you devoted to what was happening to those workers at dnata when the aviation sector was in trouble.

You had the opportunity in government to make different decisions when it came to the aviation sector, and you have the opportunity now. You have the opportunity now, indeed, when it comes to the breadth of issues across our industrial system and to our Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Closing Loopholes) Bill. You have the opportunity to turn some of this faux outrage into real concern about some of the things which have happened and continue to happen in the aviation sector, which this government is taking action and introducing legislation on. We are closing loopholes like those on labour hire, which are seeing companies use labour hire to undercut their agreements with their workers. You have the opportunity to change your position and change your mind on loopholes that affect casual workers and leave people stuck classified as casuals when they don't want to be. Of course, among all the devastating loopholes you have the opportunity to engage in a little self reflection on, there are the loopholes in the gig sector which have seen, over the past decade, workers being subjected to unsafe conditions and paid less than $10 an hour. Some of these workers have told Senate committees they're being paid as little as $6 an hour, leading to dangerous conditions, because we know there is a link between what you get paid and your safety at work in this sector. You have an opportunity to close these loopholes now too.

In this moment of faux outrage, reflect on what you have overseen in the aviation sector and what you allowed to happen on your watch when it came to things like labour hire, job security, protecting Australian industry and competition in the market. You oversaw the collapse of Virgin Australia. That's a pretty significant risk to competition in the aviation sector in this country. You have an opportunity to turn faux outreach hour into real concern; you have an opportunity to get behind the government's legislation which will be coming into this place to close loopholes; you have an opportunity to be a part of strengthening a sector you seemed to be so concerned about today in question time; and you have an opportunity to make a meaningful difference in the lives of some of the workers in our country who are subjected to the most dangerous conditions—conditions which we in this country have fought over many, many decades to avoid in every other sector. Companies are completely undermining basic principles like the minimum wage. You have opportunity to turn your faux outrage here into action, and I welcome you doing that. Let's have an hour on real reform in the aviation sector and what we can do on IR.