In our comment earlier this week we heavily criticised the Albanese government for its plans to attack Australia’s 2.1 million people under the con of ‘gig protection’. We will continue to mount that criticism.
But today a huge tick for Prime Minister Albanese and his government. The government is moving with great speed to ‘beef up’ the unfair contract laws. This will give real protections to self-employed, small business people from bullying, unethical big businesses. It’s a game-changer for the economy in ways which few people, we think, would understand.
A brief background:
- We started campaigning for unfair contract protections for self-employed people in 2010.
- We achieved success with the creation of the protections in 2016. But the laws lacked real enforcement teeth. Large businesses routinely ignored the laws. This short ABC video explains the laws in 2016.
- In 2018 the laws were reviewed and in 2020 ‘beefed up’ draft laws were proposed. We strongly supported the ‘beefing up’.
To the credit of the Labor Party, it has supported the creation of these laws since the beginning. In fact, in 2016 the laws would have been useless if not for the hard Senate negotiations conducted by Labor. Now the ALP is moving quickly to beef up the laws. We explained this in August this year.
The key thing with the new laws is that there are big fines for breaching them. $2.5m for an individual and $50m for a corporation.
But back to basics. What do the laws actually prohibit? The laws make it clear that a contract is ‘unfair’ if it gives one party, but not the other, the ability to:
b) Terminate the contract.
c) Apply penalties against the other party for a breach/termination of the contract.
d) Vary the terms of the contract.
e) Renew or not renew the contract.
f) Vary the contract price where the other party cannot terminate the contract.
g) Unilaterally vary the characteristics of the goods or services under the contract.
h) Unilaterally determine if the contract has been breached or to interpret its meaning.
i) Limit one party’s vicarious liability for its agents.
j) Permit one party to assign the contract without their consent.
k) Limit one party’s right to sue the other party.
l) Limit the evidence one party can use in legal proceedings.
That is, the law balances the contractual power between big and small businesses. This is real, serious protection for self-employed and small business people. Now with real teeth, big business will be forced to comply.