Workers will have greater protections from the beginning of next year after an agreement was reached between the Albanese Government and crossbench Senators Jacqui Lambie and David Pocock to deal with the latest tranche of industrial reform in two parts.
Under the terms of the agreement the government will today divide the Closing Loopholes Bill, putting some parts to a vote today while parking others for consideration when parliament returns next year.
Senators Lambie and Pocock thanked Minister Burke for working with the crossbench to see elements of the reforms passed now while allowing additional time for consideration of the more complex elements.
Senators Pocock and Lambie confirmed they would today support the passage of measures that will:
- Make it easier for First Responders to access workers compensation for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from 1 January 2024, including members of the Australian Border Force, the Australian Federal Police, ambulance officers, paramedics, emergency services communications operators and firefighters
- Enhance protections for people experiencing family and domestic violence from being discriminated against at work
- Expand the functions of the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency to include silica
- Ensure employees of large companies don’t miss out on redundancy entitlements as a business downsizes due to insolvency
- Close labour hire loopholes consistent with amendments to the legislation that passed the House of Representatives
- Criminalise intentional wage theft and the non-payment of superannuation, with a safeguard to endure the new wage theft provisions will not apply until the small business code has been declared
- Ensure industrial manslaughter becomes a criminal offence
- Ensure health and safety representatives can access workplaces consistent with the recommendations of the Boland review
In return for this support the government will also amend the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act to address what has been raised as a huge and ongoing issue with how independent medical assessments are used.
Senator Lambie also secured additional resourcing from the government for the Fair Work Ombudsman to help small businesses understand and comply with their obligations under the legislation and a commitment to initiate an independent review of the Comcare scheme aimed at improving outcomes for injured workers.
Senators Pocock and Lambie reiterated their commitment to consider the remaining parts of legislation in good faith early in the new year.
“It’s clear that things like minimum standards for gig workers are necessary but we need to ensure we get the details of these big changes right,” Senator Pocock said.
“Bringing forward changes that will better support first responders with PTSD will be life changing and I thank the government for working with the crossbench to split the bill to get this done this year.”
“I want to thank the Minister and his office for working constructively on these issues,” Senator Lambie said.
“We can now move ahead with the remaining elements of the Bill, with the limited resources we have, in good faith.
“We have a 21st century economy. We need to get these laws right so today’s workers are protected and businesses are enabled to grow.”