Question Without Notice - Taxation

29 February 2024

Ms BYRNES (Cunningham) (14:42): My question is to the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations. While the Albanese Labor government's agenda is helping Australians to earn more and keep more of what they earn, are there any risks that would cause them to have to work longer for less?

Mr BURKE (Watson—Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Minister for the Arts and Leader of the House) (14:42): I thank the member for Cunningham, with a question that draws together all the threads of the last few weeks. Indeed, if you go through the three parliamentary sitting weeks we've had, we had the first two where the legislation went through first the Senate, then the House, for people to be able to earn more.
Then we have this week—

Mr Sukkar interjecting—

The SPEAKER: The member for Deakin is warned.

Mr BURKE: where the legislation has gone through the Senate, for people to be able to keep more of what they earn. And, against all of that, when we had the first legislation, for people to earn more, those opposite were really angry about it and voted against it. On the tax cuts, those opposite voted for it but were still really angry about it, angry about it to the extent that—have a look at the amendment that they voted for in the House and in the Senate, which said that what we should have is a reform package that is 'in keeping with the stage 3 tax cuts'. That would mean 84 per cent of people get a tax hike. That's what that would mean. They all voted for it here in the House and again in the Senate—for 84 per cent of Australians to get a tax hike.

But the commitment from those opposite is that, on people's rights at work, they will come forward with a 'targeted package of repeals'. That's how they've described it. No-one said they had to use the word 'targeted', but that's how they've described it. We know that means they will target people's wages. That means they will target people's job security. They will target safety at work. And we know from the last week that they will target the measures that have been delivering a closing of the gender pay gap. But the first policy that they've decided on is the worst of all the ideas. The first policy that they've committed to taking to the next election is to undo the right to disconnect—the particular policy that allows people to have some time off. It's the policy that is now law that says that, when you're not being paid, you don't have to work. There are forms of engagement for workers in world history where that principle didn't apply, but generally it is accepted that if you're working you're meant to be paid.

But, while they'll oppose the right to disconnect for workers, I'll tell you that it's a right that the Leader of the Opposition's willing to take for himself, because, if it's anything about the cost of living, he'll exercise his right to disconnect. If it's about getting wages moving, he'll disconnect. If it's about rights for casuals, he'll disconnect. If it's about being allowed any time off at all, the right to disconnect is there for the Leader of the Opposition. He'll disconnect from anything that improves the rights of Australian working people, but he'll always take the right to disconnect for himself and allow it for no-one else.