Wednesday 13 September, 2023

The Hon. V.A.TARZIA(Hartley) (15:22): I rise today to speak about concerns that have been raised with me from the transport industry about the recent Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Closing Loopholes) Bill 2023 in the federal parliament at the moment. A variety of businesses have also come to me with very valid concerns that I thought I would talk to today.

We are aware, obviously, that it looks like there will be new collective bargaining that will need to be navigated with some road transport workers and digital labour platform employee-like workers as well. Compliance costs for businesses are set to be increased, including costs of engaging industrial relations lawyers. It looks like union delegates will have rights to paid leave for delegate training and employers must provide reasonable facilities and time for them to communicate with and represent members.

What this means is that it is going to result in an increase in labour costs, requiring businesses to rethink the engagement of labour hire and contractors. There are concerns amongst the industry that this will translate to not only lower profit but also higher costs of goods and services, and ultimately it is consumers who are going to have to pay for these increased goods and services.

We just had an example by a Labor member opposite of what happens when freight costs increase. Whether we are bringing in domestic travellers or whether we are bringing in commercial freight, if you increase this cost of doing business, one way or another we are all going to pay. Paul Fletcher MP highlighted in a parliamentary speech recently against the bill amendment deep concerns about deeply problematic changes that are being proposed to the expansion of the Fair Work Commissioner's jurisdiction to cover the road transport industry. My industry sources say that this is actually attempting to revive what was a disastrous and failed road safety remuneration tribunal through this proposed bill amendment.

It is felt that the body proposed within the commission will have a profoundly negative impact on the road transport industry. It is also felt that it will harm the livelihoods of hardworking owner-drivers. These are small business owners, owner-drivers who will then lose flexibility. They will lose their flexibility to set rates and conditions. If we see this occur, costs go up and costs are passed on to the Australian consumers.

Australian consumers are already struggling with increased costs of household goods at the supermarket. Unreasonable demands, be they from the union or otherwise, I do not think should be yielded to because this bill will impose new costs, new burdens, on businesses, workers and consumers. We know that this is being pushed by the federal Labor government. We know that this is to advance the interests of, amongst others, the union bosses. I think there has been a total disregard to the impact on and the economic advancement of the rest of Australia. Recently the Business Council of Australia pointed out:

The government has already admitted these changes will drive up costs for consumers at a time when people can least afford it while adding complexity and confusion for both workers and businesses.

This is from a recent extract from Innes Willox, the chief executive of national employer association Ai Group, who said:

The proposal to give the Fair Work Commission sweeping new powers to re-regulate the Road Transport Industry clearly amounts to an attempt to revive the disaster that was the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal in all but name only. The measures in the Bill that are purportedly directed at avoiding a repeat of past mistakes are wholly inadequate and any contention that there is broad industry support for the kind of change proposed is simply inaccurate. Industry should be deeply alarmed by the approach that has been taken to this issue in the Bill.

Whilst there may be very limited ideas of merit—for example, the eradication of unfair contracts and contract terms, and who would argue with that?—this is a bad bill. It is going to make it harder to do business and, if they make it harder to do business, ultimately businesses are going to go broke and it is going to be everyday South Australians who will have to pay for this poor legislation.

In the remaining 30 seconds that I have, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate a fantastic local soccer club in my electorate in Dernancourt, AC Unito, who are now champions in the division 4 league of the amateur league. Congratulations to co-founders Carlo Troncone and George Belperio. These guys founded this club in 2022. This is a truly historic moment for AC Unito Adelaide, becoming back-to-back champions and gaining back-to-back promotion. We wish them all the very best and may they continue on their winning journey.