I’m in Parliament (Canberra) and have been studying the Albanese government’s amendments to the Loophole (IR) Bill. ‘Weird’ is the best description. Try this.
The amendment relating to ‘employee-like’ workers says:
an “…order must not include terms about any of the following matters…” then lists the excluded matters.
But one paragraph later the amendment then says:
“Despite the subsection (above) a term about a matter mentioned (above) may be included …if the FWC (Fair Work Commission) is satisfied that the inclusion of the term (matter) is appropriate…”
That is, the amendment says that something is ‘out’ but is also ‘in’. What?
It reminds me of a quotation from Alice in Wonderland:
“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast!”
But if we can leave Alice alone for a little while, independent Senator David Pocock asked me to respond to two questions following my appearance before the Senate Committee on 10 November. YouTube link (19 minutes)
Senator Pocock asked:
1. You warn that this Bill will damage competition and result in a concentration of power in the hands of big business. Can you explain your concern for the fate of small business and competition in Australia in relation to this Bill?
We’ve replied in detail, but here are some points we made.
- Tradespeople in the housing sector, in particular, will progressively lose their independence and be forced to work through large construction firms under similar arrangements to those operating in the commercial construction space. Housing construction will, over time, become concentrated in the hands of small numbers of big business builders.
- The cash economy will expand. People denied access to gig-type work will turn to the shadow economy and under-the-table payments. (Note: Because gig work is all on-line transaction managed, payments are transparent and traceable for tax and other regulatory purposes.)
- Big business will have an expanded control of the Australian economy. The suppression of small business activity, and in many cases the elimination of small business, will favour big business. The Bill will create a competition vacuum in the economy into which big business will happily move.
2. Does this Bill impose any risks on the viability and autonomy of relatively well paid independent contractors?
Our full answer to this question is:
Yes. By design, the Bill re-defines every self-employed person as an employee, thus legislatively removing their right to be a self-employed, independent contractor, their ‘own-boss’. The Bill is limitless in its reach and unrestrained by income level or any other factor. The Bill’s operational mechanisms have the capacity to directly attack the viability and autonomy of any independent contractor, no matter what their pay or income level.
The full answer to the first question is here and includes detailed references to the relevant sections of the Bill. It’s 5,000 words and (frankly) gets pretty dull to read.
If you want a more lively read, I’ve put together a Substack post (eight-minute read) that might be more engaging.
So off now to read more about Alice in the Wonderland of the Loophole Bill.