Date of report: 16 October 2022
This report covers the period from the last AGM in October 2021 to the October AGM of 2022.
On a personal level the year has been one of great loss.
- Our much loved and respected Chair, Judith van Unen, passed away in May 2022 after a long battle with cancer.
- Franc Konstek, one of the longest serving members of the board, has needed to step down due to ill health.
- Several other members—Matt Pearce, Faduma Juma and Frances Fahey—all found the pressure of their private work necessitated their departure from the board.
All these board members are much missed and our thanks are extended to them for their invaluable contributions. As Self-Employed Australia is a not-for-profit, volunteer organisation, participation as a board member is entirely unpaid. Board members participate out of a dedication to, and belief in, our cause—the protection and defence of self-employed people.
Main activities and developments are as follows:
Advocacy Activity in Parliament House Canberra
This continued to be impossible due to Covid restrictions.
ATO Reform Program
The Federal Parliamentary Tax and Revenue Committee released its report in November 2021. It substantially addressed the ATO reform issues that SEA has been promoting. That is, for Taxpayer Rights laws modelled on those in the USA. The Committee Report came out in favour of key aspects of SEA’s reform agenda.
Not Above the Law Campaign – Supreme Court
This progressed to the launch of an application in the Victorian Supreme Court for a Writ of Mandamus to order the Victorian WorkSafe Authority to investigate the 26 individuals and entities that SEA named in our s.131 application under the Victorian Occupational Health and Safety Act. This relates to the failure of the 2020 Victorian hotel quarantine program that led to more than 800 deaths in Victoria.
That is, SEA made application (under s.131 of the Act) to WorkSafe against 27 individuals and entities and WorkSafe has only responded by prosecution of the Department of Health.
At the time of writing this report, a decision from the court is pending.
UK and USA networking/partnering
SEA continues to work with like organisations in the UK and USA to further the cause of defending self-employed people. This culminated in a joint meeting in London in September 2022.
Federal Election 2022
This resulted in a change of government from the Morrison Coalition to an Albanese Labor government. The implications for self-employed people mainly relate to commitments from Labor to create a ‘third-way’-type definition of worker under the guise of the ‘gig’ economy. The impact of this would effectively be to destroy the legal status of self-employment. SEA is campaigning against this.
Gig economy advocacy
SEA made a submission to the Productivity Commission Inquiry into the Aged Care sector as it relates to the use of self-employed people and gig platforms.
Personnel High Court case
The High Court released a decision in early 2022 with major implications for self-employed status. Essentially the Court ruled that where a written contract is clear and comprehensive, the written contract should be used when deciding if a person is an employee or self-employed.
Research ATO treatment of self-employed
SEA has partnered with the University of Western Australia in an application to the Australian Research Council for funding for a 3-year research grant into the treatment of self-employed and small business people by the ATO. If granted, the University will conduct and manage the research, with SEA being a support ‘partner’.
Unfair Contract laws
The Albanese government moved in September with a Bill to ‘beef up’ the Unfair Contract laws. SEA is highly supportive of this. The ‘beefed up’ laws will bring real teeth to the enforcement of unfair contract laws. This has been a continuous campaign by SEA since 2009.