Page 589 - Week 02 - Thursday, 20 February 2020

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Labour Hire Licensing Bill 2020

Ms Orr, pursuant to notice, presented the bill, its explanatory statement and a Human Rights Act compatibility statement.

Title read by Clerk.

MS ORR (Yerrabi—Minister for Community Services and Facilities, Minister for Disability, Minister for Employment and Workplace Safety and Minister for Government Services and Procurement) (11.09): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

Today I am pleased to present the Labour Hire Licensing Bill 2020, which will establish a licensing scheme for the regulation of labour hire operators in the ACT.

This government is proud of its long history in protecting the rights of territory workers. We have committed and delivered on a secure local jobs package of reforms that have set the bar for ensuring that government-funded contracts are going to businesses that are doing the right thing. We have committed to and delivered on improving work health and safety legislation, including the strongest regulations for dealing with asbestos-containing materials anywhere in the country. We have committed to and delivered on reforming the way that the ACT government cares for and supports its injured workers by becoming a self-insurer, improving rehabilitation and return to work outcomes for public servants.

Today this government is building on its success by delivering a labour hire licensing scheme for the ACT to better protect our vulnerable workers. The Labour Hire Licensing Bill will deliver on a promise made in this place in 2018 to develop a labour hire licensing scheme. This scheme is about encouraging responsible practices in the ACT labour hire industry; ensuring that labour hire businesses operating in the ACT meet their workplace obligations and responsibilities to their workers; and creating a framework that is effective in preventing and responding to non-compliance with workplace standards in the labour hire industry.

As the Assembly will be aware, a number of recent inquiries in Australia have highlighted the vulnerability of labour hire workers to poor treatment at work, including underpayment and unauthorised deductions of wages; dangerous workplace conditions; substandard accommodation provided to workers; and even cases of exploitation akin to slavery and bonded labour. This is unacceptable, and while a national scheme would be preferable, in the continued absence of a comprehensive labour hire licensing scheme at a national level, this government will step up and take the necessary action to protect vulnerable territory workers.

Licensing is a powerful regulatory approach that can simultaneously track businesses entering and leaving an industry, screen new entrants, and monitor and drive compliance with industry standards. To ensure this, the Labour Hire Licensing Bill has a number of core elements that will continue this government’s long tradition of protecting workers.

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