This is the fifth Annual Report for ICA. 2006 has been a year dominated by several significant issues:
- Independent Contractors Bill.
- International Labour Organisation.
- Planning for the re-organisation of ICA.
In addition, we have continued to monitor tax, superannuation and workers’ compensation issues.
Independent Contractors Bill
The emergence of the Bill has been a much longer and drawn-out process than might have been expected. As of the end of October 2006, the Bill has not yet been presented to the Senate and is not expected to appear in the Senate until December.
During the first half of the year, ICA continued the programme of liaising with other industry associations and the putting of views to government on the possible content of the Bill. Lobbying efforts consisted of:
- Workshops and meetings with the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations and with the network of organizations.
- Phone campaigns and letter-writing efforts to MPs.
- Several lobbying sessions in Parliament House, Canberra, seeing MPs.
Around April of 2006, ICA became aware that there were potential difficulties over the owner-driver issue and that more lobbying was required on this issue. Groups of owner-drivers approached ICA and, in April, we assisted with the formation of Owner Drivers Australia (ODA). ODA operates as a separate independent committee from ICA.
The Independent Contractors Bill was introduced into the House of Representatives in late June. It’s a relatively short Bill but has a complex layout and wording. ICA’s first response was to try to ensure we properly understood the Bill. To this purpose, several assessments and summaries were produced and published on our Website.
The Bill is very narrow in its purposes. It is designed entirely to override State laws that declare or treat independent contractors as employees for industrial relations purposes. It protects independent contractors from these State laws. However, the Bill has some features which ICA believes should be removed. The Bill:
- Excludes owner-drivers in NSW and Victoria from the protections offered by the Bill.
- Enables more independent contractors to be excluded from the Bill by regulation.
- Enables unions to conduct ‘sham’ contract prosecutions.
ICA has been lobbying to have these provisions removed. That lobbying continues.
Senate Submission and Hearings
ICA made a detailed submission to the Senate Inquiry into the Bill and also produced an analysis and response to submissions that opposed the Bill and/or attacked independent contractors. ICA made a presentation to the Senate hearings on the Bill and attended the full period of the hearings.
ICA was surprised by attacks against it by the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) and by Australian Labour Party Senators. The attacks against ICA were unnecessary and did not address issues related to the Independent Contractors Bill.
International Labour Organisation
In mid-2005, ICA became aware that the ILO again intended to debate the issues of independent contractors in 2006. This time, the ILO intended to create an ‘international instrument’. ICA attended the debate as an observer in 2003 and organised to do the same in 2006.
In late 2005, the ILO released an excellent discussion paper in preparation for the debate. ICA produced a response to this ILO paper. In essence, the ILO had moved to accept that a ‘dependent worker’ was/is an employee. The idea of a ‘dependent contractor’ has been dropped by the ILO as a term of reference.
ICA had a representative attend the full four weeks of ILO debate in Geneva. We participated as an active observer, lobbying on the detail of the final outcome. ICA believes that the recommendation passed by the ILO is a significant step forward in that the ILO Recommendation accepts that independent contractors are not employees and should be subject to business-style regulation.
ICA has produced a discussion paper on how the international debate should move forward from this point.
Reorganisation of ICA
ICA was established as a lobby and educational group and, for the past five years, we have been highly active in this respect. Increasingly, however, we have found that we receive constant requests to supply services and undertake activities outside of these lobbying and educational areas.
The ICA committee has spent a great deal of time in 2006 considering the future of ICA and what its precise structure and future activities should be. The Committee has prepared proposals for changing the constitution of ICA to effect a new structure that will enable ICA to explore new services during 2007. These changes are to be considered at a Special Meeting of ICA on 30 November 2006.
ICA is looking forward to the prospect of moving into a new fields of activity in 2007 that should be of benefit to independent contractors.
ICA’s Website continues to be active, operating as the main communication arm for ICA. The site averages 10,000 hits a month.
Tax issues continue to be important, although with the finalization and publication of ICA’s ‘laypersons’ explanation on PSI, we have found that the number of enquires we receive on PSI has dropped significantly. It appears that the Website explanation is assisting people to understand where and how their personal circumstances fit with the PSI rules.
ICA continues to monitor the ATO’s Website and provides updates and information through ‘Angela’s Tax tips’.
ICA is a member of the ATO’s Home Based Business Committee and has attended all meetings in 2006, making strong contributions and receiving valuable information.
The Superannuation Guarantee Act (SGA) and other tax treatment rules for superannuation continue to create problems for independent contractors. Specific problem areas include:
- The ATO continues to declare that SGA is required on some ‘labour only’ independent contractors. This creates confusion because the SGA laws clearly apply only to common-law employees.
- 10% rule: If an independent contractor works as both an employee and an independent contractor in a financial year, they are denied tax deductibility for any personal contributions they make to superannuation. This is clearly unfair.
However, the 2005 Federal budget contained significant superannuation benefits for independent contractors in other areas.
ICA made a submission to the Federal Treasury arguing for increased simplicity in superannuation rules for independent contractors.
Although ICA has not released any information at the time of this annual report, considerable research has been undertaken into workers’ compensation in NSW. It appears that many independent contractors and the businesses that use their services in NSW have been badly treated under the workers’ compensation regime in NSW. Further information will be released in November.