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Speech: Paid Pandemic Leave

Speeches in Parliament
Mehreen Faruqi 2 Sep 2020

I seek leave to move a motion relating to the consideration of the Fair Work Amendment (COVID-19) Bill 2010, as circulated in the chamber.

Leave not granted.

Senator FARUQI: Pursuant to contingent notice of motion standing in the name of Senator Waters, I move:

That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent Senator Faruqi moving a motion to provide for the consideration of a matter, namely a motion to give precedence to a motion relating to the consideration of the Fair Work Amendment (COVID-19) Bill 2020.

All that the Greens are seeking here is for the paid pandemic leave bill to have an hour and a half of debate this morning. This is an hour and a half of our time which can, hopefully, provide livelihoods to workers who are really suffering, and it can help us save lives. Just yesterday, we passed a bill to extend the JobKeeper package, but even that extension was given with workers getting less money to survive during this pandemic. So many people are still left out of the JobKeeper package—casual workers, university workers, childcare workers and temporary visa holders.

We need to make sure that every single person and worker in Australia at this point in time has at least 14 days of paid pandemic leave so they are not forced to choose between their health, the health of their families, the health of their community and their livelihoods. We don't have to wait for a disaster to happen; we can do that right now. We can have better public health in our country and we can better support our workers as well. We know that the Premier of South Australia has asked the Prime Minister to make this happen. We know that the Premier of New South Wales has asked the Prime Minister to make this happen. We know that we are on a cliff, and it is our responsibility to make sure that no-one falls off that cliff.

We know that the virus is going to be here for a while. We're not yet sure when a vaccine will be developed. There is uncertainty around what's going to happen now, but it is in our power to provide at least some certainty to workers that we will care for them and look after them. That's why this bill that I am requesting the Senate agree to debate and pass through this house will provide 14 days of paid COVID-19 leave to all workers, even those that have been left out of the JobKeeper package. It will make sure that permanent part-time, casual and gig economy workers will have that leave to look after themselves, look after the community, put food on the table and have a roof over their heads. It is absolutely urgent that we do this now, because people are suffering right at this point in time. We can't go away this week and come back after a month and then start considering this.

What this bill will do—and that's why it is so important that we debate it now—is actually provide an employee with 14 days leave who is unable to attend work because the employees' workplace has been shut down; it will provide 14 days leave to an employee who is subject to self-isolation or quarantine measures in accordance with Commonwealth guidelines; and it will provide an employee with leave if the employee is caring for another person who's been diagnosed with COVID-19.

This bill is a vital piece of legislation that we actually need to debate today. I'm hoping that senators here will support the bill, because it will protect workers and it will protect our community. There are 3.3 million workers around Australia at this point in time who cannot access paid sick leave. At the end of the day, this bill is about fairness. This bill is about making sure that every single worker—whether they are casual, part time or on a temporary visa and no matter where they work—is able to access 14 days of pandemic leave. All we are requesting is an hour and a half of the Senate's time—an hour and a half to save livelihoods and save lives.


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