Event: Denita Wawn interview with Sharri Markson, Sky News
Date: Monday, 22 May 2023, 5.55pm AEST
Speakers: Sharri Markson, host Sky News Sharri; Denita Wawn CEO Master Builders Australia
Topics: industrial relations, building and construction, ‘employee-like’
Sharri Markson, host Sky News Sharri: One enemy the Albanese Government has made in the first year of power is the building and mining industry. Key bodies are uniting to wage war against the Government over its proposed second wave of IR reform which will clamp down on self-employed and independent contractors standards. The Minerals Council, their members include BHP, Rio Tinto, Glencore, Whitehaven, EnergyAustralia, among others have said that they would strongly oppose any proposal that will extend the scope of the Fair Work Commission’s power to set minimum standards to an open-ended range of independent contractors. Master Builders Australia has warned that such measures would represent one of the most significant and real attacks of the rights of self-employed and independent contractors. The chief executive of Master Builders Australia, Denita Wawn joins me now. Welcome to the show, Denita. Look, the Government says here that it has consulted with the industry but you’re saying that consultation process was a sham. Why is that?
Denita Wawn, CEO Master Builders Australia: Well, it’s quite simple that we were only aware of the extent of the breadth of the proposals when a discussion paper came out around about three weeks ago. That is despite the fact us asking for now two years about the scope of the policy that the Government took to the election. It was very cryptic. It could have meant a lot of things and that was reinforced by the discussion paper. That makes it very clear that it will apply, potentially, to all independent contractors working in ’employee-like’ conditions. And we simply say that the last three weeks has not been good enough when this policy has been out for two years. But more importantly when we’ve asked the Minister about the why he has said no we won’t debate the why, it’s about the how. And we argue that is not best practice policy-making for this country.
Sharri: Well, the Government says that its IR reform consultation papers are focusing on same job, same pay and that this is designed to prevent worker exploitation. Is that not the case?
Denita: Well the discussion paper is all about focusing on any independent contractor who may be working in employee-like conditions to be forced to become an employee. Now there are certainly cases we know that exist where people are forced to becoming an independent contractor and that is unacceptable. We have sham contracting arrangements already in place and if they need some changes then lets have that debate. But what we’re talking about is individual tradies that have made a freedom of choice decision to become an independent contractor. And under the current discussion paper it is very clear that they would be captured by these proposed laws. That it would force them to become employees when they do not want to do so.
Sharri: I mean this is an usual group for the Government to be having a fight with in many ways – self-employed tradies.
Denita: Absolutely. And this is where it is really, really simple for the Government. They simply need to categorically rule out that this will not apply to the building and construction industry in terms of independent contracting in our sector. That it applies instead to those who are focused more on the sham contracting arrangements. Let’s have a debate about that. Let’s not force people into employee-like conditions.
Sharri: Alright. Denita Wawn, thank you very much for your time.
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