In Parliament

Second Reading Speech - Wage Theft Bill 2020


Thursday, 4 June 2020

Mr NEWBURY (Brighton) (10:05):

This is a very important issue, wage theft. It is something that I know we all collectively feel very strongly about.

Throughout the debate I have been listening very closely to the issue, the principles and the many examples, and I draw the Acting Speaker to the many examples that have been raised during the debate of wage theft.

What disturbed me on hearing the debate was that the government had an issue of wage theft raised with them. I raised an issue of wage theft with them to the Minister for Industrial Relations. It was a case of wage theft, a case where somebody set up a business, the business did not go so well, the business went bust and employees missed out on their entitlements. It is shocking. I was so concerned that I raised the issue with the Minister, and the Minister wrote back to me and said that the government would not investigate the matter.

It is not just concerning because it is a business or a person who ripped off their workers, it is one of their own team: the Member for Burwood. The Member for Burwood before entering this place ripped off his workers. He is a wage thief. To to sit in this Chamber and hear the debate about the importance of wage theft and to know that their own Member ripped off workers just prior to entering Parliament is a disgrace.

When it was raised publicly the Member did not respond—he just refused to respond. And he comes into the Chamber here. I call on you to wait. The Member did not respond. Now that you are in the Chamber, Member, it may be an opportunity for you to explain to the house what happened with your business and what happened to the staff entitlements. This is a perfect opportunity for you to respond to those issues.

To know that when the issues were raised with the government they refused to respond is atrocious. To know that the Minister refused to respond, to know that the government refused to investigate and to know that the Labor Party refused to investigate is an absolute disgrace. They have never responded to these issues. I call on the Victorian government to stop sitting on their hands—

Mr Pakula:

On a point of order, Acting Speaker, the Member for Brighton has not been in this place for too long, but he has been here long enough to know that standing orders require that if he intends to make imputations against a member, he should do so by substantive motion. I would seek your guidance on that point.

Ms Staley:

On the point of order, Acting Speaker, this is a bill about wage theft. The Member for Brighton is not simply speaking randomly on an issue. This is a bill about wage theft. This is a bill on which Member after Member have got up and talked about specific instances of wage theft. The Member is doing no different to what others have done and it is absolutely relevant to the bill. I take the minister at the table’s point but I reject it. The Member for Brighton has not gone past what is appropriate within the constraints of this debate.

The ACTING SPEAKER (Mr Carbines):

On the point of order I will just draw members’ attention to standing order 118, ‘Imputations and personal reflections’: Imputations of improper motives and personal reflections on the Sovereign, the Governor, a judicial officer or members of the Assembly or the Council are disorderly other than by substantive motion. This was outlined by the Minister for Racing. I do not uphold the point of order at this time, but for the orderly running of the debate in relation to these matters I draw the Member for Brighton back to substantive matters of the Bill.


Thank you, Acting Speaker. Look, it does not surprise me that the government has tried to shut down a debate on one of their members being a known wage thief. It is in fact in line with the Treasurer’s response to me, which was a refusal to investigate the matter. As I said earlier, there have been numerous examples over this debate of alleged wage thieves, and to know that while those debates were occurring yesterday a Member who is a wage thief was sitting on their side of the Chamber is outrageous. It is just outrageous.

Mr Pakula:

On a point of order, Acting Speaker, to the extent that there was any question about whether the Member for Brighton was making an imputation—a direct imputation—about the integrity of a Member, I think any doubt about that has now been erased, and I would ask you to uphold my point of order and ask the Member to desist unless he wants to move a substantive motion.

Ms Staley:

On the point of order, Acting Speaker, I would note that the Member in question is in the chamber and has therefore every opportunity under standing orders to ask for a withdrawal if he finds something to be offensive or not accurate. I would suggest to you that the point of order should not be upheld; there has been no change in the language on the point of order that you just ruled on. The Member for Burwood is in the Chamber; he does have the right of course under Standing Orders if he finds something objectionable to get up and say that, and to this point he has chosen to sit silently.

The ACTING SPEAKER (Mr Carbines):

On the point of order, I do uphold the point of order on this occasion. I have given some latitude to the opposition speaker, but in relation to *Rulings from the Chair, ‘Imputations against Members’, Hansard, 24 November 1999, Deputy Speaker Maddigan: During a member’s speech, in light of general comments he was making about an ‘individual’s’ behaviour, the Deputy Speaker read to him SO 108 (now SO 118)— which I have referred to already— reminded him of the provision, and warned that if he made any personal reflections on members, she would no longer hear him. The member continued and, almost at the conclusion of his speech, connected his remarks with a member of the House. The Deputy Speaker refused to hear him any longer. I draw Members’ attention to those actions and capacities, which I can take as Acting Chair at this time in upholding the point of order. I will also call on the Member of Brighton to continue his contribution, mindful of that ruling.


Thank you, Acting Speaker. In conclusion I would say these issues are important. They are very, very important. Every person in this Chamber believes in their importance. But it is important to not only believe in them in principle but also practice what you preach. Unfortunately that is not always the case. That has been proven to not be the case, and I call on this government to do more than simply talk about something but do something about it.