Release type: Media Release


Closing Loopholes


The Hon Tony Burke MP
Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations
Minister for the Arts

The labour hire loophole will be closed, wage theft will finally be made a crime and workers will benefit from safer workplaces under Albanese Labor Government legislation to be voted on today.

The Government has secured the support of Senate crossbenchers Jacqui Lambie and David Pocock to vote for key elements of the Closing Loopholes Bill before Parliament concludes for 2023.

Under this agreement the Senate will vote today to:

  • Stop companies underpaying workers through the use of labour hire
  • Criminalise intentional wage theft
  • Introduce a new criminal offence of industrial manslaughter
  • Better support first responders with PTSD
  • Better protect workers subjected to family and domestic violence from discrimination at work
  • Expand the functions of the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency to include silica
  • And close the loophole in which large businesses claim small business exemptions during insolvency to avoid redundancy payments

The Government has also agreed with Senator Lambie to boost funding for the small business advisory service within the Fair Work Ombudsman and initiate a comprehensive independent review of the Comcare scheme aimed at improving outcomes for injured workers.

The Government has also agreed with Senators David Pocock and Jacqui Lambie to include new guidelines on independent medical assessments for workers.

Changes that the Government has agreed with Senators Jacqui Lambie and David Pocock today will reverse the onus of proof for first responders with PTSD, ensuring workers are provided appropriate support to recover and rehabilitate. The provisions will cover the Australian Federal Police, ambulance officers, paramedics, emergency services communications operators, firefighters and members of the Australian
Border Force.

Senator Lambie has raised with the Government the relevance of these important protections for the Australian Defence Force. Historically Defence has upgraded its practices and procedures based on developments in the wider workplace relations system. We have every expectation that Defence will look very closely at the new presumption we will put in place for first responders and consider its appropriateness
for Australian defence personnel.

Other important elements of Closing Loopholes – including minimum standards for digital platform gig workers, road transport industry reforms and a better deal for casual workers who want to become permanent – will be considered by the Senate early next year.

The Government is committed to proceeding with every remaining clause of the Bill at the earliest opportunity next year, including the additions that were made through amendments in the House of Representatives.

The Government is also working constructively with the crossbench to deliver an agreed amendment which would provide Australian workers with a right to disconnect from unreasonable contact from their employer outside of work hours.

I want to thank Senators David Pocock and Jacqui Lambie for their constructive engagement during this process. I look forward to continuing to talk with them about next year’s legislation.

Boosting and protecting wages is a key part of the Government’s plan to help Australians deal with the cost of living.

It will make a material difference in the lives of Australian workers.

It means labour hire workers will no longer be underpaid.

It means it will finally be a criminal offence for an employer to steal from a worker’s pay, closing a long-standing loophole that created unfair competition for the vast majority of businesses that do the right thing.

It means that employers will be held properly accountable if their actions lead to the
deaths of workers.

And it means workers will be safer and better supported on the job.

Peter Dutton and the Liberals and Nationals have voted against this legislation every step of the way. They still want to keep wages low and hold workers back.

Under the Albanese Labor Government unemployment is at historic lows, wages are moving again after a decade of stagnation, industrial action has fallen and the gender pay gap is at the lowest level on record.

This legislation is the next step in giving workers a better deal.