Fighting for secure work on the Northside

Ms WELLS (Lilley) (19:25): I'm here on behalf of casual and labour hire workers on the north side because insecure work and low wages have created a perfect storm for them, and this Morrison government does not care. When South-East Queensland went into lockdown last week to stop the spread of the delta variant in our community, north-side workers in insecure work—people who were casuals, contract workers, gig economy workers and labour hire workers—suddenly saw their hours slashed or taken away altogether overnight. These workers instantly fell through a trapdoor into a financial abyss, with no annual leave, no sick pay, no holiday pay, no family leave.

The current industrial relations landscape we find ourselves in is not one that is here by chance or by happenstance of the free market, as those on the other side of the House would lead workers to believe. No, workers are worse off today because of deliberate policy decisions made by consecutive Liberal-National governments who value profits over people; who think we live in a corporation, not a community; and who care more about the national budget than the household budget of a family living in Boondall. Under the Liberal-National government, the nature of Australia's workforce has been shifting for a decade. Over one-third of the workforce is currently in insecure or non-standard forms of work, directly impacting many workers' ability to provide for their families and to plan for the future. Wages are projected to decrease over the next few years, while the cost of living continues to climb.

How did we get here? Well, here are just a few examples of the Morrison government's cold and systemic war on workers. In 2019 the former Minister for Finance declared that wages were low by design, as part of the Morrison government's deliberate economic strategy. In February 2020 the Morrison government created an amnesty for dodgy employers who had not paid their workers adequate super entitlements. Earlier this year, in the midst of a global pandemic, the Morrison government wrote to the Fair Work Commission cautioning against an increase in the minimum wage. And who could forget the Morrison government's crowning glory built with thorns for Australian workers, Work Choices 2.0? It was designed to strip workers of their legal rights and, when it looked like the bill wasn't going to pass, the Morrison government vindictively took out the wage theft provisions, the only provisions which Labor had agreed to support.

At every step of the way, the Morrison government has sent dog whistles to dodgy employers that it's okay to rip their workers off, and I have seen the consequences of that every day in my community. There is no more egregious example of the Morrison government giving the green light to a dodgy boss than the Prime Minister and his mate Alan Joyce. The Morrison government has handed out $2 billion in corporate welfare to Qantas without any conditions that that money be given directly to the workers, the workers who paid the taxes that were the money in the first place. With $2 billion worth of taxpayer funds in their pockets, Qantas has slashed their workforce, denied workers who have been stood down from taking sick leave, frozen their wages for two years and tried to outsource 2,000 jobs to a labour hire company because workers have stronger bargaining abilities as a unionised workforce.

Since the Federal Court's decision that Qantas acted illegally when trying to outsource those 2,000 jobs, we have heard nothing from the Prime Minister—not in the media, not in the parliament, not a word about it. The Prime Minister has Alan Joyce's number on speed dial. He needs to pick up the phone and tell Alan Joyce to reinstate the 2,000 workers who were stood down when it was announced that their jobs would be outsourced to a labour hire company. He also needs to tell Alan Joyce that any taxpayer support that is given to Qantas must be used to keep workers in their jobs, jobs on the north side of Brisbane.

As your federal member I will always fight to protect the jobs of northsiders and protect them from wage theft and the exploitation of honest workers. Only Labor have a plan to tackle exploitative, insecure work. A federal Labor government will defend your penalty rates and your rights at work. We will legislate to properly define casual work. We will explicitly insert job security into the Fair Work Act. We will crack down on cowboy labour firms to guarantee same job, same pay. We will put a cap on back-to-back short-term contracts for the same job and enforce portable entitlements for workers in insecure industries. When the election comes, Australian workers will remember who fought for their rights in a pandemic and which Prime Minister did them over at every single opportunity.