Workplace Relations

04 February 2021

Mr HUSIC (Chifley) (15:34): One of the things that's very noticeable about this government is that every time there is an issue or a problem—something that needs to be sorted—the quickest thing they do is pull out a stat or a bunch of money that they just throw at the issue. They think that, by virtue of doing that, the problem is solved. It's millions of dollars here and millions of dollars there. Then we have this barrage of statistics that's delivered to us throughout every question time. The worst person is the Treasurer, who's like Siri after a sugar hit. It's constant, one stat after another stat after another stat, in the hope that that flurry of activity, in itself, will mean that the Australian public will think everything is sorted. But there's never any real moment when we can go beyond the shine and the sheen, look at the actual people who are affected and face the fact that there are these big problems that continue to persist in this country and that serious effort needs to be put into looking after the people who have been worst affected through the course of the pandemic.


Here is a stat: two million Australians are without work or are seriously underemployed. They don't have enough hours or get enough pay through their job to ensure that they can pay their bills. These are serious stats. As much as those opposite talk about how much they help people out, they turn their backs on one million casual workers in this country by refusing to extend JobKeeper to them. If you are someone who is well connected—like, maybe, someone in Premier Investments who can pick up the phone to a treasurer and complain about the need for assistance—you can get JobKeeper, then get an exec bonus after getting JobKeeper, have that bonus and refuse to pay it back. But a casual worker is denied that. A dnata worker is denied that. A council worker is denied that. All these Australians missed out. We have the minister for education here. There are 17,000 jobs in universities that have gone. They are gone because the government wouldn't provide support to universities through JobKeeper. Amongst young people there is 14 per cent unemployment. Youth unemployment is a massive issue, and people are still affected. Millions are working without paid leave.


The government like touting all those figures, but they have not dealt seriously with those people. After all the pressure that businesses and the people who work with them have faced, unemployed people are still suffering and waiting for some sort of support. But they're being told that JobKeeper, no matter what, gets cut in March and that we won't see JobSeeker lifted seriously, as so many people have been saying needs to happen. That's not happening. The only solution that this government can come up with is to pull the lever that they always pull, which is: you've got to cut someone's pay; you've got to cut someone's conditions. The deal from conservatives always says that if you want to survive you've got to lose; you have to cut back something that you rely upon so as to be able to make it through. Wrong! This is the typical conservative lever that says you have to lose your conditions, you have to lose your rights and you have to cop a pay cut. When we point it out and we demonstrate, through their own mechanisms, that that is happening, they come up with all sorts of bald-faced lies to say that that's not the case. It's just not right.


Then, when we refuse to back the hack of wages that we're seeing, they suddenly say, 'But what about all the stuff we want to do on wage theft or all the stuff we want to do on casualisation?' How long have we been saying that wage theft has to be dealt with and taken seriously in this country? What do they do? At the point at which it should be dealt with, they tuck behind it stuff that they should have done ages ago. They should have dealt with wage theft. They should have dealt with casualisation. Then the only way to get anything done on those issues is by seeing a pay cut or a cut to conditions. No! We're not trading one thing for another. We're not trading off protections against wage theft. We're not paying for them by cutting someone's wages or cutting someone's conditions. This is not the deal we are signing up to.


Australians need a genuine government with a PM that genuinely cares about them. They deserve a secure job and a pay rise, not a wage cut. They don't need the same old conservative play that cuts wages and cuts jobs.