Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Secure Jobs, Better Pay) Bill 2022
SECOND READING DEBATE - HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
I rise to speak on the Fair Work Amendment (Secure Jobs, Better Pay) Bill 2022.
Australians need a pay rise. The member for Fowler might be interested to know that the people of Fowler need a pay rise. I have a sheet here which has every one of our electorates and their median weekly individual incomes. At the bottom of this sheet is Fowler, where the median income per week is $521. The people of Fowler need a pay rise. The people of Fowler need this House to pass this legislation so that the people of Fowler can get a pay rise. Halfway up that sheet sits my electorate, the electorate of Lalor. The individual median weekly income there is $801.
For those playing at home, I was a very bad maths student. Medians and averages always confuse me, so I checked this before I came into the chamber. The median for my electorate is $800 a week. Say that I have 100,000 electors. It means that 50,000 earn more than that and 50,000 earn less than that. If we take Fowler's figure of $521 median, half of that electorate earns less than that. Can you imagine paying the rent on less than $500 a week? This country needs a pay rise. This is an election commitment from this government. We went to an election. We sat on those benches for nine long years while we watched wages flatline and while we watched profits rise. We sat on those benches and watched it. We watched year upon year upon year when nothing was done to get wages moving in this country. We've done a lot of work to prepare for government to come into this place, to have this day when we can do something to get wages moving in this country.
This is a thoughtful piece of legislation. It's a balanced piece of legislation. It has measures that will ensure that wages get moving. Yes, there's already been action taken by this government. Yes, let's remember that there are members in this House and people around the country who thought that a dollar-an-hour pay increase for our lowest-paid workers was going to shut down the economy. It didn't shut down the economy. The Henny Pennys —and there are lots of them in this room—got it wrong. The Henny Pennys in this chamber want to come in every day and talk about jobs and skills shortages. We know that our childcare policy, potentially, will create 37,000 effective full-time workers. What do we need to make that happen? We need not to have staff shortages in early education. How can we fix that? We can allow the small businesses in my electorate to do multibargaining to ensure that they can get some pay rises happening in the care industry to ensure that we can, therefore, get another 37,000 potential effective full-time workers across the economy. It makes sense to me; it sounds very thoughtful. I'd like to congratulate our government for being able to play three-dimensional chess in this way and produce an outcome.
The Henny Pennys need to understand how to attract and retain workers. I come out of education. There is a teacher shortage in my electorate that is absolutely diabolical. Principals and administrators in schools are showing up every day dreading the timetabling issue they're going to face. Do you think getting 151 members of parliament to speak in two chambers and avoid a quorum call is difficult work? You try being the daily organiser in one of my local schools at the moment when you're likely to have six people ring that morning to say they can't make it on top of the six who weren't there yesterday. Teaching is not about putting an upright, breathing body in front of 25 children. It's complex work, and it relies mostly on relationships built over time. So our schools are struggling because of the skills and staffing shortage across sectors—across feminised sectors. Attracting and retaining staff in the care and the education sector is probably our biggest challenge.
What attracts people to a job? Let me see. Why was I attracted to teaching? I was attracted to teaching because I thought I could make a difference. When I made the decision to do teaching, did I say, 'I have a vocation,' and rush in there. No. I checked to see what hours I would work and what remuneration I would get and then I made a decision about whether teaching was going to set me and my children up as well as allow me to make a difference. To attract and retain staff, we need wages moving in this country. The Henny Pennys who want to see all the problems in the world need to come to grips with the fact that they need to be part of the solution. The good news is that today is the day when you can be part of the solution. You can come into this House and, if you care about fairness, you'll vote for this legislation. If you care about the families in your electorates, you'll vote for this legislation. If you care about gender equity, you'll vote for this legislation. If you care about the egalitarian ideas that this country was founded on, you'll vote for this legislation. If you care about the cost of living, here is part of your solution. Get this country a pay rise. Get these industries a pay rise, and the cost-ofliving issues will be reduced without impacting inflation rates.
This is not a difficult day for us. This is a great day for this new government, because this legislation, as I said, is carefully thought out. It works with other policies that we've put through this parliament already. It's part of a solution that will see pressure come off families. It works with other pieces of legislation to reduce the pressure of the cost of living. It is absolutely imperative that this parliament passes this piece of legislation. And I would suggest that any member who's going to speak on this bill today should check the median income in their electorate, because, let's face it, we're standing here and we're privileged. My income doesn't appear on that sheet as a median in an electorate in this country, and neither does the income of anyone in this chamber. Focus on the people in your electorates who are perhaps earning $521 a week and dealing with cost of living. Chances are that those on $521 a week are insecure workers. Chances are that if you're earning $521 a week you're working in a feminised industry. And chances are that those on $521 a week have kids.
This is part of a solution for this country, and I urge all in this chamber to focus on the needs of the people and the families they represent in this place. And if they think that the people in their electorate don't need this, they should focus for a moment on the people in my electorate, where insecure work is endemic. Don't look at the national figures. These things are patchy around the country. In my community I've got young people who've been in the workforce for six or seven years and are yet to have a full-time permanent job, who can't get into housing and can't get a loan, and they're not likely to. Until they can break into a secure job, that's not going to happen for them. And while you're focusing on communities like mine, think about the fact that most people who live in the seat of Lalor—70 per cent—travel outside of the electorate for work.
So, although in your electorates you may have a small business that is telling you they can't afford a pay increase for their workers, those workers probably live in my electorate. They're also doing a three-hour return commute and paying for the petrol to get to their job in your electorate, because my people work in aged-care centres in electorates outside of mine. They work in aged care in electorates outside of mine. They work across Melbourne. They travel for inordinate amounts of time. They leave their homes at six in the morning, after they've dropped their children at a local childcare centre, and they pick them up at six that evening. Give them a break. Give them a pay rise. You never know, they might even get away for a holiday.
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July 31, 2023