I rise tonight to speak about job security: secure jobs for hardworking Australians to ensure that workers have the confidence to spend their money and, in doing so, they provide our entrepreneurs and businesses with the confidence to invest, innovate and grow. I rise tonight to speak out against the growing trend in Australia towards casual, unsecure work—the growing trend of companies contracting out jobs that were once permanent; the growing trend of businesses replacing full-time jobs with part-time jobs to avoid providing people with benefits and conditions—and speak out against devaluing work. In doing so, I acknowledge the work of many people and many institutions, but in particular there is the incredible work that has been done by, amongst others, many of the trade unions, including the National Union of Workers. Casual jobs, short-term contracts and other insecure forms of work are on the rise. Secure jobs are getting harder and harder to find.
I rise tonight to speak on behalf of the labour hire worker toiling away in a warehouse in Williamstown, performing the same task as his workmate but receiving lower pay, inferior entitlements and no job security. I rise tonight to speak on behalf of the casual homecare worker, unable to predict their weekly hours or their income. And I rise tonight to speak on behalf of the so-called independent truck driver who receives a fixed contract rate but must somehow still meet his own high and variable running costs.
We on this side of the chamber are proud of our long history of fighting for fairness in Australian workplaces—fair wages, fair hours and fair conditions. In the Australian Labor Party, we are proud to stand for dignity in the workplace for everybody and to stand for sustainable jobs that support families—jobs that ensure money flows into communities, creating the confidence that drives growth. When there is less money in the pockets of regular Australians, they are not going to spend it in our small businesses, cafes or restaurants. They are not going to spend it on a new kitchen or fixing a squeak in the car. The money simply does not go around when it is not there. The number of Australians who are underemployed continues to climb. There is a hidden story. Unfortunately, in a lot of the figures we discuss in this place when we talk about the headline 'unemployment rate', we seem to ignore or forget.
In 1984, only 15 per cent of all workers were casual. By 2004, this had almost doubled to 28 per cent. Today more than 35 per cent of all workers are in casual jobs. That is one-third, and it is growing trend. Casualisation certainly is a global phenomenon, but we lead the world on this front, and there are social and economic consequences that, unfortunately, we do not spend enough time in this place talking about. In the OECD, only Spain, with a higher proportion of seasonal work in agriculture, outranks Australia when it comes to casual employment. In hospitality—a growing sector—two-thirds of our employees are casual. Forty per cent of all employees in the retail industry are casuals. More than four million employees are engaged as casuals on short-term contracts in labour hire or on independent contracts.
In the past, casual work was always considered a stepping stone to permanent employment. It was seen as something you did for a period of time while you nailed down some form of permanent employment. It was quite often seen as a phase that young people, students, those first entering the workplace and young workers would pass through on their way to some kind of a more secure, permanent job with rights and protections that many of us take for granted. But we are moving beyond that now. We are moving to a space where there are entire industries that are casualised—like food processing, hospitality, retail and tourism. Unless we stand up in this place and in workplaces across the country, we will not start winning back the jobs that you can count on.
Employees across Australia know this. Employees in companies such as Smith's Snackfood Company in Queensland know this. Just today, staff at the company's Brisbane warehouse lodged a claim for protected industrial action. They are holding a sit-in to support the rights of the many casual workers whom they work alongside. These workers, who are peacefully occupying the lunch room today, want nothing more than fairness and equality for all the workers on site. The entire idea that there are somehow going to be two classes of workers—those who are permanent and those who are casual—working side-by-side in the same workplace, producing the same work for different pay and different conditions is simply something that they felt was unfair. At Smith's Snackfood Company, as at workplaces right across this country, permanent employees want to make sure that casual workers have the same conditions that they have...