Long Service Benefits Portability Bill 2018

I take great pleasure in joining the debate on the Long Service Benefits Portability Bill 2018. I am following the member for Eildon. I quite like the member for Eildon, but I think that some of the things she said in her contribution just show how far this current Liberal Party has strayed from the small-l liberal, fairness-based party it was in the 1970s. While the member for Eildon said that employees are the lifeblood of an organisation, I think that some of the things that come out of the mouths of the so-called Liberal Party these days are more about getting blood out of a stone from workers.

I was reminded that I was at the end of primary school in 1976, when the first portable long service leave scheme was introduced. It was actually, ironically, introduced by a Liberal government. I have not heard other speakers from the other side, but I did hear the member for Eildon. What I would say to those opposite, who I understand are opposing this bill, is that this is about workers in the contract cleaning, security and community services sectors, including early childhood educators, and the long service leave that they deserve.

It was for the same reasons, the very same reasons, that the then Liberal government in 1976 introduced portable long service leave in the construction industry — because many of these employment arrangements are constantly on contract. I would urge the members on the other side who are opposing this bill to look in the faces of the security guards that protect us here in the Parliament every day, because most of them are contract employees. I have been here 15 years, and many of those employees are the same people and they have been here for a long time. These are the employees, these are the workers, that we are actually talking about.

When the member for Eildon mentioned the disability sector, what the disability sector wants is a good-quality workforce that is consistent. People with disability want continuity of care. What is going to occur in this system means that the person with a disability can choose who they work with, but it goes without saying that in this system there are going to be numerous contract arrangements. If you are a good disability worker, you will be working in a local community like mine. The six local government areas that came on in the north-eastern suburbs were the first ones after the national disability insurance scheme (NDIS) trial in the Barwon region.

It actually means that you might be a disability worker and you may have contracts with five or six or seven people that you are caring for in the same day. This could go on for years and years and years. You might be working with the same people, caring for those same people, but you would have individual contract arrangements with each of them, because that is what the system allows: for the individual with a disability to be able to choose in that way.

But I do not think that anyone with a disability who is now getting access to a service that they have never had before, or their carers, want a low-quality, low-skill or low-benefit workforce to be caring for them. They want the best to be caring for them, and I am sure that they want the best for the people caring for them. Many of those people with disability and their carers will be able to get back into the workforce or get into the workforce for the very first time. The Productivity Commission identified that it was a huge cost to the productivity of this country that we have such a low rate of people with disability in employment. It beggars belief that those opposite would use the idea of people with disability and the NDIS as a reason why this bill should not be supported.

I and a number of my parliamentary colleagues who are in the chamber right now met with many workers — cleaners — who over decades may be cleaning the same buildings but involved with different contractors. This is hugely physical work. It has a high rate of injuries. It is not very well paid. When you have someone in your home or in your workplace who is cleaning, they are actually in a position of trust. The fact that they are not rewarded with the other benefits that other employees take for granted is really a risk. It should not be a risk that we subject workplaces to. We should not be putting employees in this position.

I was really taken with the women that came to see us. They have got families, the rate of injuries that they had was significant and some were getting older. They said, ‘We need this long service leave. We need our bodies to have a break. For the same reasons why portable long service leave was introduced into the construction industry in 1976, that is why we need it now’.

I notice that no-one from the Greens party is in here. I do not know if they have spoken on this bill. They come out with their mealy-mouthed nonsense about the so-called ‘old parties’, saying that there is no difference between the so-called old parties. The oldest political party in Australia, which has always backed workers, will continue to back workers.

One of the biggest problems in this country is that we have a low-wage economy. We actually need an improvement in pay and an improvement in conditions. I am not surprised that those opposite will always back the big end of town whenever there is a bill before this house that is about workers and looking after them.