The Morrison government’s controversial JobMaker legislation has passed the Senate without the amendments designed to add protection for older workers after One Nation backflipped on its decision to block the unamended scheme.
On Tuesday we reported that independent senators Rex Patrick and Pauline Hanson had announced that they wouldn’t support the bill, which opened the door for Labor and the Greens to pass amendments that added in protection for older workers.
The JobMaker hiring credit scheme, which was announced in last month’s Budget, aims to provide employees with a financial incentive to hire younger workers, but experts are concerned that it will lead to businesses firing more mature and experienced staff in a bid to reduce expenses.
The program gives employers $200 a week for employing a jobless person under 30 and $100 for hiring those aged 30 to 35.
In the Senate, Labor proposed amendments that required the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) to publish information about the performance of the scheme, create reporting requirements for companies receiving JobMaker credits and state that government must create avenues for whistleblowers and dispute resolution procedures for the program.
The Greens also proposed amendments that would ban companies that have underpaid their staff accessing the scheme and prevent companies sacking staff and claiming the credit.
The amendments were rejected in the House of Representatives and sent back to the Senate, where One Nation supported the legislation passing without amendment.
Greens senator Mehreen Faruqi accused One Nation of throwing older workers under a bus by passing the legislation without the protection amendments.
“There is nothing in this bill stopping employers from firing their staff or from reducing their hours,” Ms Faruqi said.
“Not only can they fire their staff and reduce their hours but those workers have no avenue to complain or to have a dispute resolution process. That’s what One Nation are voting for.
“They are throwing all workers – young, old or otherwise – under the bus.
“I hope that they will face the consequences of this decision. But, unfortunately, it will be too late for the workers that they have thrown under the bus.”
One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts told Parliament the party had changed its mind on the legislation after being presented with new data on unemployment rates between younger and older generations.
“When we get new data, we have the courage and the integrity to change our mind,” Mr Roberts said.
“The Australian unemployment rate for people aged under 35 years is 10.4 per cent.
“The second figure is that the Australian unemployment rate for people older than 35 is 4 per cent. I know damn well that people around Australia who are over 35 years of age will recognise those figures, because they care about younger people, not just themselves.”
Labor senator Katy Gallagher questioned the government’s motivation for not wanting to add protections to its JobMaker hiring credits scheme.
“The fact that the government has refused to accept the amendments and is asking the Senate to not insist on them without an explanation really begs the question: why is the government opposed to amendments that stop employers from being able to sack existing workers?” Ms Gallagher asked.
“There was no engagement, no explanation, no justification for why relatively minor but important amendments could not be agreed to.
“This hiring credit scheme may do some good for young workers, and that is why we have supported the scheme, albeit with concerns. Those concerns go to issues like job security, the fact that the scheme is pretty modest and the fact that government has no answer for what it will do for unemployed workers over the age of 35.”
Do you support the JobMaker hiring credits scheme for younger workers? Do you think there should be protections to ensure older workers are not sacked to hire younger workers at a cheaper rate?
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