Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 02 Hansard (Wednesday, 21 February 2018) . . Page.. 520 ..
I support Ms Cody’s call for the ACT government to implement legislation and other measures to ensure that government procurement delivers high ethical results in relation to labour standards, as well as the other issues that I have talked about. This is a complicated issue and it is one that can be difficult to assess, but it is imperative that we examine the issue and see how we can best incorporate processes and create legislation in a way that will ensure that these issues are considered in our procurement, so that the ACT does the best good that it possibly can with the dollars that it is spending on goods and services.
MR PETTERSSON (Yerrabi) (4.07): I would like to start by thanking my colleague Ms Cody for bringing this motion to the Assembly. Ms Cody has had a longstanding commitment to fighting for workers’ rights, and her ongoing work in this sphere is greatly appreciated by working people.
I would like to discuss some recent instances of workplace exploitation that we have witnessed in Canberra. As many know, the Fair Work Ombudsman is tasked with regulating workplaces and ensuring employers comply with their obligations. It is an organisation that has been hamstrung by a Liberal government that is indifferent to working people. But that is its role, and it still carries it out to the best of its ability.
On 31 January the Fair Work Ombudsman released the findings of one of their compliance campaigns aimed at businesses in the ACT. Shockingly, they found that only 31 per cent of businesses were fully compliant with their obligations—only 31 per cent. We hear a lot of lecturing from conservatives about the rule of law, but I have not heard a single word about this reckless law breaking.
It is worth noting what prompted this campaign by Fair Work. The Fair Work Ombudsman targets their activities, and the reason for targeting the ACT in this instance was that requests for assistance in some parts of Canberra were way above the national average. Unfortunately, they do not have the resources to help everyone or to be on every job site. They have to take a sample and hope that their efforts send a message to the rest of the industry.
As part of this investigation, the Fair Work inspectors recovered a total of just over $27,000 on behalf of some 28 employees. While that is a positive outcome for those workers, it is fair to be concerned that this is just the tip of the iceberg. As I just said, the Fair Work Ombudsman has to take a sample, and this sample indicates that the size of the problem is likely to be much greater, and that many more workers are being underpaid and exploited right here in Canberra.
This is not a one-off. The Fair Work Ombudsman has regularly undertaken activities in Canberra, and what should be a concern to all of us is that there seems to be little improvement in this behaviour. Last year the Fair Work Ombudsman selected 80 businesses right here in the ACT that had previously been found non-compliant with workplace laws.
As a brief aside, there is a theory put forward by some that non-compliance is often caused by a lack of awareness of workplace obligations. The conclusion of this report