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Complex and confusing bill exposed in Senate hearing

Liberal Party of Australia

Complex and confusing bill exposed in Senate hearing

The Department of Employment and Workplace
Relations appearance at a Senate Estimates hearing has been characterised by a
series of complex and confusing explanations of the Government’s so-called
Closing the Loopholes Bill.

A phalanx of
departmental officials was required to explain various parts of the
controversial Bill. It often took two or three officials to contribute to the
answer to a single question.

Shadow Minister for
Employment and Workplace Relations Senator Michaelia Cash said: “One thing that
was made very clear was that, despite what the Government keeps claiming,
service contractors are not excluded from the labour hire provisions in the

A departmental
official told the hearing: “It is not a strict prohibition against the
inclusion of services contractors.”

Senator Cash said:
“It has been plainly obvious to everyone that service contractors are not
excluded and now we have confirmation of this from the department which drafted
the Bill.”

On the complexity
imposed on business in the Bill, Senator Cash said: “A question and follow-up
on the definition of a casual and the effects of that definition took over 15
minutes to explain. I think many in the room were more confused at the end of
the explanation than at the start.”

“I’m not sure how
small and medium business operators are expected to work their way through
these changes and understand what they can and can’t do,’’ Senator Cash said.

“The information
provided today raises even more questions which we will be exploring through
the ongoing committee inquiry and also in the Senate when the Bill reaches the
chamber,’’ she said.

“At one point an
official admitted that ‘loophole is not defined in the bill’ and ‘it’s a
broad-brush way of referring to the measures in the bill to give it a short
title’,” Senator Cash said.

“If it wasn’t so
serious it would be laughable,’’ she said.

“At the start of the
day we learnt how even the Department got it wrong when it came to paying their
own staff. They underpaid 99 staff by over $60,000 and it has cost them nearly
$200,000 so far in legal and other fees to rectify the situation,’’ Senator
Cash said.

“If the Department
responsible for employment and workplace relations can’t get it right on paying
their staff how can businesses navigate this whole system and the changes
proposed?’’ she said.

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