Senator Bob Day – "Innovative Wage Proposal, State Senator calls to end ‘Workplace Regulation Prison’"

October 29, 2015

Graham Greenwood (The Border Watch, Monday 26 October) correctly identifies a fundamental problem with our nation’s economy .  However he falls for the same trap as many others in looking to ‘big business, big unions and big government’ to solve the problem. The trouble is, they are not the solution, they are the problem.  They get together and agree on pay rates eg penalty rates, that people should be paid and thousands of people are left unemployed, underemployed or casualised.  At the State level they make deals, hail them as ‘historic’, and not one business owner takes up the offer! Go figure.

There is a solution, and it begins by us ceasing to look to the rent-seeking carpet-baggers in industry, unions and government.  The solution lies with the people who want to work but these same industry associations, unions and governments won’t let them. They are not allowed to work under terms and conditions that suit them. A person could be unemployed, living at home rent-free, with no (or very low) cost of living and would be willing to work at a starting pay rate eg $20 an hour which is substantially higher than they are getting on the dole, but because penalty rates on weekends or public holidays are around $40 an hour they are not allowed to take them. So they stay on the dole, the business stays shut and the customer doesn’t get to buy whatever it is they want to buy.

But there is now an opportunity for a breakthrough. It’s called ‘disruption’. Uber, for example, has enabled people to run their own taxi service as and when it suits them – and public support has been so strong, ACT and soon NSW regulators are de-regulating taxis to facilitate the New Normal.  AirBnB has enabled people to offer their own homes or holiday houses.  TaskRabbit and the like allows people to offer their labour for almost anything, as and when and- critically – on terms and conditions that suit them.  Now before the taxi drivers and hotel owners get upset, there’s good news for them too – governments that welcome this disruption are also slashing red tape and licensing costs so the playing field is level for all players.

The present workplace regulation system is a prison, trapping a person in thousands of pages of regulations.  You can travel to any part of the world you like and expose yourself to mortal risk, yet nobody regulates that activity.  Why the mountain of regulation preventing a person getting a job?  No-one goes into bat for the unemployed. Yet it is they who could lift Australia’s productivity by being able to work as and when and on terms and conditions, that suit them.  The solution is simple – let them out of the workplace regulation prison.  Let them opt out of such or all of the industrial regulation framework they want.

It should come as no surprise that I, a Senate crossbencher from South Australia, would propose this.  In our State we know we have to think more broadly and welcome innovation.  The crossbench itself is being disrupted – the ‘Uberisation of democracy’ I call it -by new parties like mine (Family First), competing with the big boys.  It is energising and a great hope for our nation.