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Moving amendments to the IR Bill to protect small business

There has been much talk from the Government of the mandate it has been given by the people of Australia to support the introduction and passage of the Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Secure Jobs, Better Pay) Bill 2022. I agree wholeheartedly that the people of Australia did give a mandate for wage growth, especially in the long-undervalued and largely feminised care sectors. And I wholeheartedly agree with the need for urgent reforms to ensure that there is equal pay for equal work.

However, I too have been given a mandate, by the people of Mackellar, to listen to them and to represent them on issues that matter to them and to make a difference to their lives. This includes a strong mandate to support the small-business owners in Mackellar. Small business is the backbone of the Mackellar electorate, with over 35,000 small businesses located there. The results of our recent survey of businesses showed that 84 per cent identified red tape and compliance as their top issue of concern.

I have also heard loud and clear from those in the construction industry, including my local Master Builders Association, who value the role of the Australian Building and Construction Commission and are alarmed at its abolition. In fact, almost nine per cent—8½ thousand people—working in Mackellar work in the building and construction sector. This includes 3,500 businesses, of which 91 per cent are small businesses. This is comparatively high even compared with similar electorates in my area of Sydney. I also have a mandate from the majority of my electorate to do politics differently, and that is to ensure proper process, consultation and consensus building.

The problem I have with the omnibus nature of the fair work legislation amendment is that many of these excellent policies are bundled up with the more-controversial ones, and this has created a Sophie's choice when it comes to voting. As with many of my crossbench colleagues, I too have serious concerns at the consequences this legislation will have on small business.

So, I have moved these amendments to protect small businesses and to reduce the risk that they will be impacted unnecessarily. I do this by removing the uncertainty associated with the common-interest test and raising the bar in regard to the public interest test. Importantly, I seek to remove part 3, the abolishment of the ABCC, which has been a political football with each change of government.

I also seek to protect small business by updating and clarifying the common-interest test and also flipping the public interest test to be defined as 'in the public interest', not merely 'contrary to the public interest'. Finally, I move to amend the definition of the small business exemption to be based on 15 full-time-equivalent employees, not merely employees under the current definition of small business. Thank you.