Mallee farmers, builders and other businesses will bear the cost of Labor’s payback to their Union masters with the Same Job, Same Pay Laws requiring employers to pay more for labour hire passing Parliament late on Thursday, Member for Mallee Anne Webster says.
“These changes compound Labor’s chaos for small businesses and farmers across Mallee,” Dr Webster said.
“In farming alone, it adds to the pain Labor imposed when it took away piece rates based on how much fruit was picked, forcing farmers to pay workers an hourly wage. The 30-hour work week Minister Burke is imposing on farmers – regardless of the weather or season – won’t result in everyone getting the same pay, they will simply see less people employed.
“As National Farmers Federation President David Jochinke says, farmers are now left to grapple with how they engage employees through labour hire in the context of this new legislation during the busiest time of the year. Minister Burke has got his way and will be getting a pat on the back from his union masters, but Mallee farmers will now struggle to get fruit off the tree or vine to feed the nation.”
Dr Webster said horticulture is already labour intensive, but Labor Government policy is intent on making it harder for our farmers at a time when the Centre for International Economics predicts the Mildura-Swan Hill region’s Gross Value of Production (GVP) will grow more than anywhere else in the nation to $2.2 billion per annum in 2029-30.
“Combine this legislation with the reintroduction of water buybacks that devastated our Victorian Murray region the last time they occurred and not only will our potential horticulture boom fail to launch, our local economies could contract,” Dr Webster said.
“When you are next at the checkout trying to put food on the table or in your child’s lunchbox, think how expensive Labor is making it for the farmers to produce the food you buy. In the middle of a cost-of-living crisis these new laws are like putting petrol on a fire.”
It won’t be just the farming sector who will be hurt by the changes, industries such as construction and manufacturing will also feel the brunt. Mildura builder Paul Lock said:
“It takes the gloss off running a small business. Typical Labor policies: red tape and a militant building commission … They are putting the brakes on the building industry. What we need is a stable economy, not the roller coaster that we’re experiencing. The fact is, if you get a good worker you pay them more to keep them. We don’t need government controlling everything. Business can work it out themselves.”
“Minister Burke’s Bill substantially increases the burden and costs imposed on businesses using legitimate labour hire arrangements to meet demand surges or remedy staff shortages,” Dr Webster said. “For Labor it is Merry Christmas to Union bosses and thanks for all your support, but to Australian businesses it is a lump of coal under the tree.”
Labor was able to pass these changes by splitting the legislation in a deal with Senate crossbenchers Jacquie Lambie and David Pocock, with other measures affecting gig and casual workers as well as minimum rates for owner-operator truck drivers to be discussed in the new year.
“I will continue to fight against the remaining parts of the Bill which will only harm Mallee producers and businesses,” Dr Webster said.
“We in the Coalition support the parts of the Bill which addresses positive changes such as small business redundancy exemptions, industrial manslaughter and protections against discrimination and wage theft but we will be doing everything we can to hold the Government to account for changes that will have perverse outcomes for Australians.”