Labor’s wage theft laws set to crash before take-off

The Federal Liberal Nationals Government recently introduced a Bill that will thwart the Andrews Labor Government’s ill-conceived foray into the federally controlled industrial relations space, and make redundant Daniel Andrews’ new authority “Wage Inspectorate Victoria”.

The Federal Liberal Nationals have introduced its Fair Work Amendment (Supporting Australia’s Jobs and Economic Recovery) Bill 2020 into the Federal Parliament.

Part 7 of Schedule 5 to the Bill seeks to introduce provisions into the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (FWA) which criminalise underpayments uniformly across the nation and exclude all state and territory laws which provide for offences: 

  1. relating to underpaying an employee an amount payable to the employee in relation to the performance of work; or 
  2. relating to an employee record that is required to be made or kept by the employer under [the FWA] (such as an offence for failing to make or keep such a record or making or keeping a false or misleading record)

These planned amendments to the FWA would override the Andrews Labor Government’s Wage Theft Act 2020 (Vic) which created a number of wage theft offences falling within the scope of the excluded state laws.

The Federal Liberal Nationals Government had flagged its intention to legislate in this space prior to the passage of Labor’s wage theft laws, yet the Andrews Labor Government forged ahead with its own folly.

Should Part 7 of Schedule 5 to the Bill pass the Federal Parliament, the $17.5 million allocated in last month’s state Budget (BP 3, pp 115, 120, 126) for the creation of Wage Inspectorate Victoria, a statutory authority tasked with the enforcement of Victoria’s newly-created wage theft offences, will go to waste.

Comments attributable to Shadow Minister for Industrial Relations, Nick Wakeling:

“The Liberal Nationals warned the Andrews Labor Government about its backdoor attempts to regulate the industrial rights and obligations of Victorian private sector employers and employees now rightfully regulated by the Federal Government. 

“Daniel Andrews’ backdoor attempt to regulate areas, not within the Victorian Parliament’s domain, looks set to fail should the Federal Government’s planned wage theft offences pass, with Victorian taxpayers left with the bill for yet another expensive flight of fancy.

“This should come as no surprise to the Andrews Labor Government after it forged ahead with its own wage theft laws even after the Federal Liberal Nationals Government signalled its intention to legislate in this space.

“No doubt the Andrews Labor Government will waste yet more taxpayer funds arrogantly pushing ahead with its own wage theft agenda.” 

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