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December 18, 2018

I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land where we have gathered and recognise and pay respect to their elders past, present and emerging.

I congratulate the incoming President Wayne Swan and thank him, for it was he, who reminded me just recently that when the great civil rights leader Martin Luther King told Americans and the world, 55 years ago this year, “I have a dream…” it was a speech entitled, “Jobs and Freedom”.

Jobs and freedom.

He was fighting for civil rights AND economic justice. He understood that there was no justice for African Americans in America in the 1960s, without jobs.

And like that great orator, Labor knows that our country cannot be fair without economic justice.

And that means jobs. Secure jobs. Better paid jobs.

For decades economists have told us that inequality was the price of economic progress. But that is simply not true. Inequality is not the price of economic progress, it is an impediment.

Today those great international “left wing” think tanks, the IMF, the World Bank, have concluded inequality damages economic growth, stunts economic growth.

Delegates, the Labor Party always knew this.

And that is why Labor is calling out inequality where we see it in the community and the economy – in education, and in health care, for women and for our first Australians, in housing, across our tax system and in our labour market.

Delegates, we cannot tackle inequality or build a future of inclusive prosperity unless we have workplace laws that deliver for working people.

Australian workers are being left behind and going backwards because of wage stagnation and growing job insecurity.

And one of the key causes is that enterprise bargaining is faltering in some parts of the labour market and in other parts failing altogether.

Workers need and deserve a seat at the bargaining table, but too many are not afforded that right.

Too many workers, often low paid with insufficient industrial strength, are missing out.

That’s why a Shorten Labor Government will improve multi-employer bargaining, particularly for those workers, so it is an effective pathway for fair outcomes.

Labor’s workplace laws will ensure every worker has an appropriate vehicle to bargain with their employer to get their fair share of economic growth.

Where enterprise bargaining has failed or is failing, multi-employer bargaining should be another available option.

Between now and election day Labor will stand up for workers denied a decent pay increase and job security. Labor rejects the race to the bottom on wages and the ability for employers to game the IR system which is unfair to workers and the majority of employers who want to do the right thing.

Labor wants to level the playing field and restore the balance in the labour market. This can only be achieved by employers, unions and workers bargaining under laws that deliver fair outcomes for all.

Only Labor can be trusted to deliver a labour market that provides secure jobs and decent pay, now and for the future.

Inequality is at a 75 year high.

Corporate profits have grown six times faster than wages.

When CEO’s pay has risen four times faster than average wage growth, to be 75 times the average wage, something is very wrong.

No wonder that, for too many people, it seems that the link between hard work and fair reward is broken.

Our challenge ahead is to deal with stagnant wages growth, insecure work, underemployment, corporate avoidance of workplace laws and the need for the IR system to keep pace with the gig economy.

And delegates, we are ready to take that challenge head on. This Liberal/National government on the other hand won’t even acknowledge this problem exists.

Labor was the first opposition ever to make a NWC submission to increase the minimum wage as we are committed to ensuring the minimum wage is a living wage.

Today, we have announced that a Shorten Labor Government will strengthen the ability of the Fair Work Commission to order pay increases for workers in female dominated industries such as early childhood, aged care and disability services. This is a reform long overdue.

Delegates, the changes to Chapter 5 of the platform reflects Labor’s commitments, which are not only extensive, they are focussed on restoring the balance between hard work and fair reward, and ensuring we have a labour market fit for today and for tomorrow.

A Shorten Labor Government is therefore:

Committed to leading by example as a model employer, working with the public service and unions to rebuild an effective public sector with fair and equitable conditions of employment and job security.

Labor will stop the use of labour hire by employers to undermine the pay and conditions of direct employees, by requiring that workers at a site who do the same job get the same pay.

We will crack down on sham independent contracting.

We will develop a fair definition of casual. Federal Labor wants to make sure people aren’t stuck in the purgatory of permanent casualisation, with all the hours and commitment to a full-time job but none of the conditions. We want people in this country to be able to plan for the long-term, to be able to take out a home loan, a car loan, to start a family, a relationship, to have confidence that their future plans and dreams can be realised.

Scandal after scandal has made it clear that worker exploitation is widespread and the Morrison Government is not interested in stamping it out. This exploitation must stop.

Labor will extend, where appropriate, responsibility for compliance with workplace laws to corporations who are the economic decision makers, and will significantly increase penalties for employers and related entities who systematically underpay and exploit workers.

Labor will stop the unilateral termination of agreements, and employers using sham enterprise agreements.

We will increase penalties for phoenixing and, superannuation will be made a workplace right.

A Labor government will provide 10 days’ paid family and domestic violence leave.

We have affirmed and strengthened our commitment to safety at work. Every single person in this country has the right to be free from industrial diseases and to come home safe at the end of the day.

Delegates, Australians are dealing with the impacts of technological disruption at a pace we could never have imagined. Labor is committed to ensuring we have laws that provide appropriate coverage and protection for all forms of work.

Delegates, Labor knows our economy is stronger when our society is more equal; when our workers are skilled, confident and capable; when governments, businesses, unions and workers are engaged in dialogue; and when there is a broad base of participation, contribution and reward.

When we stand up for working people and their communities, and when we listen to business concerns, we stand up for a fairer, more equitable, more inclusive Australia – and a more prosperous one.

That’s the future Labor wants to help realise.

I commend the revised Chapter 5 for your consideration.