Aussie workers could be one step closer to not having to answer their bosses outside of work hours as Labor edges closer to a deal on its contentious industrial relations laws.
It would allow workers to tell their bosses to stop making unreasonable contact outside of work hours – but that wouldn’t include messaging people for shifts and other “completely reasonable” issues.
Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke explained one option being considered would open the door to employers being fined if they continued to contact workers outside of hours after being ordered to stop by the workplace umpire.
But he was also open to a compromise to ensure workers would not be penalised if they ignored communication outside of work hours.
“One of the ways, instead of the fines, of doing it is simply having an absolute ban on there being a penalty on the worker for disengaging,” Mr Burke said.
“So if a worker disconnects, if they decide they are not going to have their phone with them, if they decide they’re not going to be checking their emails, then absolutely no penalty can be brought against them.
“And that sort of protection would give you way of doing it without fines on the employer.”
It’s understood the compromise has the support of the Greens.
The second tranche of the legislation include changes to make it easier for casual workers to convert to permanent roles, create tougher standards for pay and conditions in the gig economy .
Mr Burke said he was hopeful it would pass this week but was coy on if he had yet to win over the crossbench.
“Nothing’s resolved until everything is resolved, so at the moment, we don’t have a majority in the Senate,” he said.
“I’m hopeful, the conversations have been really constructive, but you know, there’s no negotiation with David Pocock and Jacqui Lambie, that’s an easy one.”
Big threat to Albo’s tax cuts
Anthony Albanese’s self imposed Easter deadline for the stage 3 tax cuts could be in doubt after the Greens signalled it would be willing to delay the final vote.
No decision was made at the Greens party room meeting on Tuesday morning as to whether it would back in the changes but left open the door to sending the tax cuts to an inquiry.
Under the changes, tax cuts to high-income earners will be redistributed to workers earning under $150,000.
The lowest tax bracket would be reduced from 19 per cent to 16 per cent for earnings under $45,000 and retain the 37 per cent tax rate for those earning between $135,000 and $190,000.
But the Greens remain unimpressed with the proposal and think more needs to be done to make stage 3 fair.
The Coalition agreed at its own party room meeting to not stand in the way of the tax cuts. It will put up it’s own amendments to the Bill, but will wave the changes through when they inevitably fail.
Speaking after the meeting, Peter Dutton said given so many Australians were “worse off” under the Albanese government, the Coalition was supporting the change to help those who needed assistance now.
“The Prime Minister’s made this change for his own political survival,” the Opposition Leader said.
“We’re supporting this change not to support the Prime Ministers lie, but to support those families who need help now.
“Because Labor has made decision that have made it much harder for those families. That’s the position we have adopted as a party room.”
Opposition treasury spokesman Angus Taylor confirmed the Coalition would be taking “strong tax reform in line with the stage 3 tax cuts” to the next election.
Speaking outside St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Canberra on the first sitting day of the year, Mr Albanese simply dared the Coalition to vote against the Bill and pledge to repeal it if they were returned to power.
“The Liberal Party has changed its position on stage 3 tax cuts. If this is carved in stone how is it that they have changed their position?” he said.
“If they are fair dinkum then their response must be to not only oppose what we are putting forward with our legislation we’ll introduce today but to promise to roll it back.
“Unless they do that, it’s just wind.”
It all means there could be some late nights and bleary eyes ahead, Mr Burke said.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we have some late nights a little bit later this week and next week to be able to try to make sure we get everyone to speak,” he said.
“This is one where every member of parliament, I suspect, is going to want to have their say on whether or not every Australian should get a tax cut.”
Meanwhile, teal independent Allegra Spender has announced that following consultation with her electorate, she will support the cuts.
“Of the nearly 1700 people who responded to our community survey, more than two-thirds backed the decision to reshape the tax cuts, including many people who will be worse off as a result,” she said.
“So many people have spoken to me about how they’re struggling with cost-of-living pressures and these changes will give them support when they really need it.”
But she urged the government to do more.
“I’ll be advocating for specific support on energy and housing costs in the lead-up to the budget,” she said.
Pressure over tax changes
An Australian senator has pressured an elected MP to flatly rule out her support for changes to negative gearing, resulting in a tense exchange.
Nationals senator Bridget McKenzie on Tuesday demanded independent MP Monique Ryan rule out backing the investment scheme, which allows taxpayers to offset the costs associated with an investment property against their taxable income, after Dr Ryan signalled her support for wider tax reform.
“Would you support any changes to negative gearing?” Today show host Karl Stefanovic asked the crossbencher.
“Australians need certainty and they need to understand what their tax system looks like in the future,” Dr Ryan said.
“I think that, as I’ve said again, all things should be on the table in terms of tax reform in this country, but we shouldn’t be making these willy-nilly changes. We shouldn’t be tinkering around the edges of the tax system.”
Senator McKenzie said Dr Ryan raised “an interesting point” given the Albanese government’s backflip on its stage 3 tax cuts.
“When you appreciate and understand that over 2.2 million Australians are property investors as a way to actually deal with some of the debts, rental impacts of bracket creep, they’re the types of things that people like Monique need to flatly rule out any changes to,” she said.
“Australians rejected the Labor Party the last time they put that on the table. We’re concerned now, given you can’t trust a thing these guys and gals say that this could be on the table come May.”
Dr Ryan, who said she supported “measured” tax reforms, including Labor’s changes to its stage 3 tax cuts, issued a curt response to the senator’s probing.
“I think that this sort of wedging in is the sort of thing that Australians hate about politics. They want politicians to lead and to make decisions and not to try and trap each other in this sort of way.
Aussie death sentence a ‘reality check’
Australian writer Yang Hengjun’s suspended death sentence is a “reality check” for Canberra’s relations with Beijing, Senator Simon Birmingham says.
The democracy activist was sentenced to death, which can be reduced down to life in prison if he does not commit any further crimes while in jail, by a Chinese court on Monday.
The opposition foreign affairs spokesman described the outcome as “harrowing”.
“Of course, (it is) a case that is something of a reality check for Australia in the relationship with China, and a case that must remain at the forefront of advocacy by the Albanese government and all Australian officials in their engagement with Beijing,” he told ABC TV.
China’s ambassador to Australia, Xiao Qian, was summoned to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on Monday afternoon for a meeting with secretary Jan Adams to discuss the sentence.
Speaking after a church service in Canberra, Mr Albanese said Australia had conveyed its “outrage” about the verdict.
“This is a very harsh sentence on Dr Yang, who is a man who’s not in good health,” he said.
“We will continue to make the strongest representations. We of course called in the ambassador yesterday – but we will make representations at all levels.”
Senator Birmingham said he hoped the government “clearly laid out” the “anguish and anger” felt by Australians.
“It is critical that we make sure Australia’s feelings are heard and that in no way in the days, weeks, months or, if need be, years ahead should this case be allowed to slip from mind or from advocacy,” he said.
Mr Albanese stressed Australia’s response would be “direct”.
“We have said very clearly that we’ll co-operate with China where we can, but we’ll disagree where we must,” he said.
“We must disagree with this harsh action by China. We have done so. We will continue to do so.”
Dr Yang has been detained in China since he was arrested five years ago, accused of espionage.
He has always maintained his innocence.
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