SUBJECTS: Gender Pay Gap, Fair Work Commission, Gig Economy, Fuel Excise.
JAYNE AZZOPARDI, HOST: Now, the Federal Government is this morning putting the gender pay gap at the heart of its plan to overhaul Australia's Fair Work Act. To discuss more on this, we are joined by the workplace relations Minister Tony Burke. Morning to you, Minister.
THE HON TONY BURKE MP, MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT AND WORKPLACE RELATIONS: Great to be back.
AZZOPARDI: Realistically, though, how much can governments do about a gender pay gap? What is going to make your plan different?
BURKE: Well, there's a lot we can do. There are some things we've already started on. So aged care workers, very feminised industry. We're getting behind their wage increase claim that's on before the Fair Work Commission at the moment. We want the Fair Work Commission, which is sort of the umpire that sets the rules on where rates of pay should be, to have to take into account the difference between what men are paid and women are paid in every decision they make.
But there's also decisions that we can do. Like at the moment, in a lot of jobs, there could be contracts where you're not allowed to tell your other workers what you're earning. And it's a really common ploy in workplaces where women are being paid less than men. We want to get rid of those clauses. At the moment, the difference between what men are paid and women are paid in Australia is about 14%, which is, you know, you're in the order of $250 a week. And if you want to get wages moving, and we do want to get wages moving, closing that gap between men and women is really important.
AZZOPARDI: Do you think you're going to face pushback from businesses? Because a lot of this is happening in private businesses.
BURKE: A lot of it is. And there'll be some businesses that push back. You need to remember though, that for every business, if you get wages moving across the country, yes, they're paying more on wages, but their customers also have more to spend. So it's not some sort of zero sum game here. And ultimately, people have had ten years where a government deliberately wanted to keep wages low. Off the back of that, we can afford to get wages moving now.
AZZOPARDI: I want to go to a different issue, because this week, yesterday, in fact, you called the gig economy a cancer that was spreading throughout the workforce. There are lots of people who take on jobs like this, driving Ubers, etc, because it fits in around their lifestyle. They can pick and choose when they want to work and get paid for it. What's the problem with that?
BURKE: And I'm not opposed with the technology. I use the technology. What I am opposed to is the fact that at the moment, it comes with no minimum standards at all. So the way it works at the moment, if you're classified as an employee, you get a whole lot of rights, but if you're not quite fitting the full definition of an employee, all those rights fall off a cliff. And what we want to effectively do is turn that cliff into a ramp. So if there are ways in which, okay, you're not in every way technically an employee, you've got the exact sorts of flexibilities that you just referred to. Well, what sort of minimum standards should still be there?
I don't want Australia to become a country where you have to rely on your tips to make ends meet. There's lots of countries where that happens. I don't want it to be here. So what we're determined to find is a way where you can keep the 21st century technology but not have 19th century working conditions that come with it.
AZZOPARDI: And finally, we've sort of been touching around the topic of the cost of living. The fuel excise relief is due to end in September. The Prime Minister has hinted at extending it. Do you think that will happen?
BURKE: We're not in a position to be able to extend it, and we've been really consistent on this. Even to extend it for six months, it would be $3 billion. We are facing at the moment, you know we've been left with more than a trillion dollars of Liberal debt, so there are some things that we simply can't afford.
AZZOPARDI: So that's it, it stops in September?
BURKE: That's the date that was set by the previous government and we're not in a position to be able to afford to change that.