Page 3887 - Week 10 - Thursday, 20 September 2018

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Inquiry into the extent, nature and consequence of insecure work in the ACT

Ministerial statement

MS STEPHEN-SMITH (Kurrajong—Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, Minister for Disability, Minister for Children, Youth and Families, Minister for Employment and Workplace Safety, Minister for Government Services and Procurement, Minister for Urban Renewal) (11.01): I am pleased to provide the Assembly with an update on the government activities designed to support and protect workers engaged in insecure work in the ACT. This government believes all workers deserve to be treated with respect, be paid fairly, have their workplace rights upheld and go home safely to their families at the end of each day. We also believe workers should be able to have a job they can rely on.

As the Assembly would be aware, an inquiry into the extent, nature and consequence of insecure work in the ACT was recently finalised by the Standing Committee on Education, Employment and Youth Affairs. The inquiry sought to explore the extent and impact of insecure employment arrangements in the ACT, including the labour hire industry.

It sought to explore the consequences for workers in the ACT and the broader community of the shift away from the traditional permanent, ongoing employment towards employment structures such as “permanent casuals” and independent contracting, which provide less certainty for workers and can increase the risk of exploitation. The statement I am making today is in response to the committee report but also in the context of this government’s strong commitment to addressing insecure work in the ACT.

I acknowledge that the commonwealth Fair Work Act 2009 is the main legislative instrument for industrial relations and workers’ rights in the territory. The Fair Work Act provides the foundations to ensure minimum employment standards are applied to all territory workers and, through recent amendments, seeks to provide a greater level of protection for our most vulnerable workers.

The Fair Work Amendment (Protecting Vulnerable Workers) Act 2017 took effect on 15 September 2017, increasing the investigative and evidence-gathering powers of the Fair Work Ombudsman and substantially increasing the maximum civil penalties that apply for certain serious contraventions of the Fair Work Act. Both government and non-government members of the committee recommended that the ACT government advocate for additional Fair Work Ombudsman inspectors to be based in the ACT.

We are committed to pursuing better outcomes for ACT workers and acknowledge that the effectiveness of the Fair Work Act is dependent on its proper enforcement. I have previously raised my concerns about the level of resources available for enforcement activities with the former minister, Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash. ACT government officials have also sought advice from the Fair Work Ombudsman about what resources are available in the ACT to ensure that employers are not exploiting workers. I will continue to advocate to the commonwealth to provide

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