Rather than protect and support workers and their families, the Morrison government has actively worked to undermine their best interests, writes AEU industrial officer URSULA McBRIDE.
Navigating the dangers of a global pandemic is not the only threat our members and their families have dealt with over the past two and a half years. Members have also faced threats to their health, job security and livelihoods posed by Scott Morrison thanks to the policies and laws his government has proposed and enacted.
F for COVID response
Despite the chance to watch and learn from the successes and failures of other countries, Morrison managed to stuff up Australia’s reopening plan. His failure to shore up the provision of COVID tests resulted in a national shortage of rapid antigen tests (RATs), rows of empty supermarket shelves, and a continuing crisis in all facets of the education sector due to a lack of staff and safe working conditions. According to Malcolm Turnbull, the vaccination rollout debacle was “the biggest failure of public administration I can recall”. The subsequent RAT debacle must also be vying for that distinction.
F for job security
The current federal government has actively worked to make it easier for employers to casualise jobs that would otherwise have been permanent. Morrison removed workplace rights for some casuals and retrospectively overturned court decisions that recognised leave entitlements for wrongly classified casuals. On top of that, employers now have the power to define any job as casual through employment contracts at the time of employment. These changes have affected our members, particularly those working in disability services, TAFE, and early childhood.
The collective might of the union movement defeated Morrison’s anti-worker Omnibus Bill, after the Liberals did their best to remove hard-won conditions by proposing legislation that would allow the Fair Work Commission to approve enterprise agreements that did not pass the Better Off Overall Test (BOOT). These proposed workplace laws would have hurt the essential workers who helped keep the economy afloat during the pandemic, including AEU members.
The current federal government has actively worked to make it easier for employers to casualise jobs that would otherwise have been permanent.
F for fair funding
The Morrison government has continued the Coalition’s long-standing failure to provide fair and equitable funding of public schools. Advocacy group Save Our Schools found that government support for private schools in Australia has increased at nearly five times the rate of funding for public schools over the past 10 years. In that decade, funding for Catholic and independent schools increased by $3,338 per student, compared to a mere $703 per student for public schools.
F for women’s rights
Big on promises, the Morrison government has failed to deliver on the recommendations from its own Sex Discrimination Commissioner. By refusing to implement the central recommendation of Kate Jenkins’ Respect@Work report to impose a positive duty on employers to safeguard their staff from sexual harassment, the government missed an important opportunity to strengthen women’s workplace rights. It also failed to include the recommended 10 days of paid family and domestic violence leave in the Fair Work Act, which would support women escaping violent relationships.
F for protecting LGBTQI+ students
The federal government broke its promise of enacting discrimination law amendments to protect LGBTQI+ students in private and religious schools. On 13 October 2018, one week out from the Wentworth by-election, Scott Morrison suggested parliament could deal with this matter in the next fortnight. The reform then stalled after the Coalition refused to agree to protect LGBT students from discrimination without further protections for religious freedom.
More than two years later, government has drafted a bill that rather than protecting LGBTQI+ staff and students, would now increase discrimination, foster division and disharmony in workplaces, and remove existing protections in state and federal discrimination laws.
Educators across the country are concerned about the discrimination they will face under the proposed reforms, and the impact of allowing ongoing discrimination against children on the grounds of their identity.
Our members, along with all Australian workers, deserve a government that prioritises the wellbeing of their families and communities. Let’s send Morrison a strong message at the next election that a FAIL on policy and reform is not good enough.