Page 1757 - Week 06 - Wednesday, 13 May 2015

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I take this time to thank the government and successive ministers for the work they have done in supporting Karinya House over a long time. I am very pleased we have now got to the stage where Karinya House is about to have new purpose-built facilities, but it has been a long time coming. Karinya House was one of the first organisations in the ACT to get money under the stimulus package back in 2008-09, and it has been a long time getting plans approved and getting things drawn. I compliment Mr Rattenbury; when he was the minister I went to him and said, “Minister, this process has been bogged down.” He was surprised to discover it was bogged done, but he took the initiative and worked very hard to get it unbogged when it was bogged down in bureaucracy. It has been brought to fruition by Mr Gentleman. I wanted to take the opportunity at the Karinya House function last week to compliment the government, but there were to be no political speeches, so I am doing it here today. Congratulations to Karinya House for the many tens of thousands of dollars they raised for vulnerable women and girls in the community.

Workplace relations

DR BOURKE (Ginninderra) (6.05): The draft report of the Productivity Commission’s workplace relations framework inquiry is due soon. The inquiry, requested by the federal Liberal government, appears to be laying the ground for another attack on workers’ rights and raises the spectre of new WorkChoices-like legislation.

Tonight I want to talk about the risks to workers in precarious employment. Precarious employment is generally characterised by indeterminate work hours or being employed as a casual or on a contract basis. Workers in precarious employment are protected by our current system of workers’ rights, not only within the ACT but in Australia as a whole. These include the protection of penalty rates in industry awards and protections of workers from unfair dismissal.

Workers in precarious employment are in a unique situation. Their often unstable hours and conditions make them more vulnerable to unemployment and damage to their mental health. This mental health threat to workers in precarious employment is well documented. Having the guarantee of not being unfairly dismissed or having it used as a threat against them gives workers in precarious employment occupations more job security and better mental health as a result. It also ensures less pressure on public health and welfare services, as well as greater social harmony.

The importance that worker protections have for mental wellbeing is shown time and again in academic literature on workplace relations, both in Australia and across the world. For instance, a Victorian study found that workers in precarious employment have greater exposure to psychosocial risks such as low job control, multiple job holding and shiftwork.

Another example is a large study conducted in Australia by Richardson, Lester and Zhang. Using panel data, the study explored the determinants of mental health among participants with varying workplace contracts. The study concluded that it was unclear if workers in precarious employment have better mental health outcomes but that workplace relations protections mitigate negative impacts of those risks on mental health.

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