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Election 2019 Wrap-up: Will ScoMo Keep the Status quo?

The Scott Morrison-led Coalition is set to get another term. Will the win against the odds result in changes to Australia's employment laws?

The Coalition did not make many significant policy announcements in relation to industrial relations during its campaign, and as a result it is a return to the status quo from an industrial relations and employment perspective. However, there are some clues that can be drawn from statements and unfinished initiatives from the last term.

Casual Employees

  • Following the decision of WorkPac v Skene in 2018 and the current test case WorkPac v Rossato, the Coalition has signalled its intention to continue its work to prevent employees who allege that they have misclassified as casuals from being back-paid entitlements. This would prevent these employees from "double-dipping" and accessing both the casual loading and the entitlements of permanent workers (such as paid leave).
  • As announced before the election campaign, the Coalition plans to amend the National Employment Standards to create a right for casual employees to request to convert to permanent full-time or part-time work. This comes as a result of the 2018 move by the Fair Work Commission to incorporate casual conversion clauses into 85 modern awards. Expect this to be accompanied by greater protections against "double-dipping" claims.


  • The Coalition intends to grant the Federal Court power to deregister unions or to disqualify officials for repeated or serious breaches of the law.
  • The Coalition has previously suggested that it plans to introduce a public interest test for union amalgamations.

Enterprise Agreements

  • The Coalition will work to prevent enterprise agreements from being permitted to include clauses mandating which fund to pay workers' superannuation into. This will have a potential impact on union controlled industry superannuation funds which benefit from such provisions.

Apprentices / Training

  • The Coalition intends to establish a AUD525 million skills package. This includes a target of 80,000 new apprenticeships in areas with skills shortages by doubling employer incentive payments and AUD2,000 payment to new apprentices.
  • The Coalition has announced that it intends to commit AUD75 million to a new "Mid-Career Checkpoint" initiative intended to support up to 40,000 Australians, particularly women, looking to return from time out of the workforce due to caring responsibilities.

In addition to the proposed policies above, it is important to note the initiatives advanced by the Coalition in the Budget 2019-20, including:

National Labour Hire Scheme

  • Establishing a National Labour Hire Registration Scheme. The Scheme would make it mandatory for labour hire operators in high-risk sectors, such as horticulture, cleaning, meat processing and security sectors to register with the Federal Government. The intended consequence is to ensure transparency in the labour hire industry, introduce a pre-entry requirement to those operating as a labour hire business, help reduce worker exploitation and ultimately drive behavioural change.
  • The Scheme would also dedicate a portion of the funding to enhancing the Fair Work Ombudsman's capacity to investigate underpayment and related issues, and deliver information and education activities.

Sham Contracting Unit

  • Establishing a dedicated sham contracting unit within the Fair Work Ombudsman. The unit will target employers engaging in sham contracting behaviour by increasing education, compliance and enforcement activities, and dedicating additional resources to investigate and litigate cases.

Workplace Advice Service

  • Expanding the Fair Work Commission's Workplace Advice Service clinics. This will enable approximately 35,000 small business employers and self-represented workers to access free legal advice on employment law.

New Employment Services Model 

  • Pilot key elements of a new employment services model, which will enable employers to meet skills shortages faster by searching for job candidates for free.

At the time of writing, it is predicted that the Coalition will secure a majority with 77 or 78 seats in the House of Representatives and have a reduced number of crossbench Senators whose votes are required to pass legislation. This suggests that further legislative change is not necessarily off the agenda.

Copyright 2020 K & L GatesNational Law Review, Volume IX, Number 142



About this Author

Duncan Fletcher, KL Gates, Australia, industrial relations lawyer, labor regulation attorney

Mr. Fletcher has been working with clients in the practice area of labour, employment and workplace safety for more than 15 years. He has expertise in industrial relations and labour regulation, individual employment relationships and contracts, preparation and enforcement of workplace policies and procedures, equal opportunity, discrimination, harassment, workplace safety and training. Based in Perth, Duncan has worked on matters throughout Australia.

He has been involved in large scale industrial relations and employment litigation and in the...

Xanthe Shaw, Employment lawyer, KLGates

Ms. Shaw is a lawyer in the Labour, Employment and Workplace Safety practice group. She also works with the Litigation practice group, assisting in a range of matters including commercial litigation, strategic advice, employment disputes and personal injury claims. Ms. Shaw advises clients across a variety of industries in relation to employment and industrial relations issues, including unfair dismissal claims, occupational safety and health, termination of employment and litigation in state and federal courts and tribunals.

Ms. Shaw is actively involved in animal welfare law, and regularly appears on behalf of RSPCA WA in civil forfeiture and criminal prosecution matters. She assisted RSPCA WA with its review of the Animal Welfare Act 2002 (WA).

Ms. Shaw has also assisted in corporate law matters including initial public offerings, share and asset sales and venue hire agreements.