With the election of the Albanese government, there’s been a frenzy of academic, union and Labor government commentary about how big changes are coming for self-employed people. There’s the:
- Demonisation of the ‘gig’ economy, as if every gig worker works in some sort of oppressive Dickensian environment.
- Pushing of ‘employee-like’ independent contractor concepts and of bringing such people into employment regulation.
- Calls to change the definition of self-employment/independent contracting.
- Renewed attack against owner-drivers.
Let’s be clear. The Albanese government has stated its intent to implement new, aggressive policies around each of these issues. Workplace Relations Minister Tony Bourke explained on ABC Radio the ‘big shift’ that’s to happen.
Frankly, we (SEA) have been around too long (since 2000) and we are too experienced to fall for the spin that this is to ‘protect’ self-employed workers. These types of agendas have been promoted by the broad Labor movement (unions, ALP, Labor academics) since the 1990s. The agenda is to squeeze the life blood out of people who are, and want to be, their own boss. We know the game.
But this time is different from the last three decades-or-so. With The Greens and at least one independent Senator, Labor has the numbers to push its agenda through parliament.
Their agenda is, of course, damn nonsense and will be cancerous to the livelihoods of Australia’s 2.1 million self-employed people. You won’t know the cancer is there until you start feeling the pain.
However, don’t expect something different from the Dutton opposition. After the Morrison government’s 2019 win, the Coalition demonstrated a brain deadness on small business issues.
- Yes, it introduced some good ‘pay small business on time’ requirements but didn’t go far enough.
- It continued to allow the ATO to bully, harass and oppress small business people without any checks and balances.
- It failed to implement the beefing up of unfair contract laws that were ‘ready to go’. Did it do a deal with the big end of town to put this off?
Now for some balance. While we’re warning about, and will campaign against, Labor’s destructive agenda for the self-employed, there’s some good news.
- The Albanese government has just announced the requirement that 20 per cent of government procurement must go to small and medium businesses.
- Labor has in the past been a strong supporter of beefed-up unfair contract laws. We ask the government to bring this legislation back into parliament and pass it quickly.
- Labor supports stronger ‘pay on time’ laws. This should be a priority.
The upshot is that we have a battle on our hands. The are some positives in the Albanese government’s small business agenda, but also some shockers. We’ll be producing considerable commentary and analysis to explain the good and the bad over the coming months.