2005 was yet another very busy and successful year for Independent Contractors of Australia. Our major activities appear below.
Independent Contractor Legislation
The surprise for 2005 was the Coalition’s winning control of the Senate at the 2004 election. This, of course, meant that the Independent Contractors legislation promised during the election could be fully implemented. To assist this goal, ICA engaged in a number of key activities. These have included:
- Establishing and expanding the network of organizations and individuals who have a strong commitment to independent contracting.
- Conducting workshops on the IC legislation with that wide network to consider, debate and formulate common ground/ideas on the IC legislation.
- Conducted lobby/briefing sessions with the major policy sections of the Federal bureaucracy on the IC legislation.
- Conducted lobbying/briefing session of Federal parliamentarians on the IC legislation. This included Liberal, National, ALP and Democrat politicians.
- Developed, proposed and put to the Federal Government a template draft of possible legislation for the purposes of clarifying issues.
- Conducted initial briefings with many journalists on what could be expected from the IC legislation and the likely implications.
In addition, ICA has made submissions to:
- The Federal Parliamentary inquiry into independent contracting and labour hire.
- The Department of Employment and Workplace Relations inquiry into independent contracting.
ICA also recognized that owner-driver issues are critical to the independent contractor issue and, after research and communication with several transport industry associations and the Transport Workers Union, ICA compiled a research paper on regulation issues with regard to owner-drivers.
ICA does not expect the IC legislation to appear until about March 2006, but has several more workshop sessions planned for January 2006 and lobbying/briefing activities planned for February/March 2006.
The principles established at the International Labour Organisation in 2003 supporting the rights of independent contractors have been valuable guides for the IC legislation.
A major shift with the committee occurred during 2005 with Bob Day, founding ICA President, becoming National President of the Housing Industry Association. Bob’s time commitments meant that he needed to step down as ICA President, but he has stayed on the committee. The new ICA President is Angela MacRae, a person with extensive experience working as an independent contractor and being involved at senior policy levels impacting on independent contractors—particularly with tax. In late 2005, Angela was appointed to the Federal Government’s ‘red tape cutting’ committee.
The ICA committee also reviewed our no-spam policy and procedures to ensure that people who did not want to receive our e-mail alerts could be assured of attendance to their requests.
South Australian industrial relations legislation
SA finally passed their new industrial relations legislation in mid-2005. This legislation involved a long drawn-out saga which had as a principal aim the damaging of independent contractor rights. ICA was heavily involved in lobbying/briefing. Happily, the aspects of the legislation that would have damaged independent contractors were defeated in the Upper House of the SA parliament.
Tax Advisory Committee
ICA representatives attended meetings of the Home-Based ATO tax advisory committee during 2005. ICA made considerable input, particularly in relation to ATO proposals for:
- Improved communication with home-based independent contractors.
- ATO web-based independent contractor definition tool for the domestic building sector.
Angela’s Tax Tips
In 2005, we initiated a regular column from Angela MacRae on ‘tax tips’ for independent contractors. This has proven very popular.
Independent Contractors Summit
Following the successful 2004 Summit, ICA conducted a second Summit in Canberra in September 2005. This was again well-attended and a range of strong speakers kept the focus on the importance of the IC legislation and the issues related to it.
Victorian owner-drivers legislation
ICA was disappointed to see Victoria bring down owner-driver legislation that will damage independent contractors by way of introducing State-imposed price-fixing into the industry. The legislation will severely damage the operation of free market activity in the industry, favour and encourage monopoly operators and limit the income-earning capacities of genuine owner-drivers. A demonstration of the fact that this will be the outcome is that the Victorian State government needed to include a clause exempting the Act from the pro-competition provisions of the Trade Practices Act.
ICA has made submissions to the Federal Government to have the IC Act override the Victorian owner-drivers legislation.
Victorian small business submission
The Victorian government conducted an inquiry into small business issues accompanied by a very good discussion paper. ICA made a submission to the inquiry, but no report has as yet been released. It was interesting that there was a lack of consistency between the owner-driver legislation and the thrust of the discussion paper.
The International Labour Organisation is again revisiting the independent contractor issue in June 2006—this time under the heading of ‘the problem of the triangular relationship’. By triangular relationship, the ILO refers to the process whereby parties engage in contracts with each other to have work done. ICA finds it odd that the ILO describes this as a ‘problem’, because it is the way an economy operates. It is also the way in which independent contractors achieve their work. ICA believes that the ILO agenda attacks the integrity of independent contractors because it attacks the integrity of commercial contracts. ICA will again be sending an observer to the ILO debate to ensure that independent contractors have some voice.
Workers’ Compensation and OHS
ICA made submissions to the NSW reviews of workers’ compensation and occupational health and safety.
ICA will be putting renewed emphasis on OHS in 2006, with the development of practical OHS guides/tips for independent contractors/small business people. We are engaged in discussions with a specialist provider to assist in this regard.
Independence and the Death of Employment
The executive director of ICA finished and released his book on independent contracting, which has been made available through the ICA Website.