Australia is rapidly changing and is now bearing an even greater resemblance to some of the worst aspects of American society. In both countries workers have been waiting many years for a decent pay rise, income inequality is at record levels, working hours are long or unpredictable and penalty rates are being cut or do not exist. For many workers stress related illnesses due to intense work pressures are common and large sections of the workforce live in fear of being sacked without notice or redundancy pay because employment security provisions have been eroded.
We have seen the consequences of these trends in America. These are the working conditions that lead to a broad range of health and social problems and that allow extremists and some politicians to divide populations. These are the conditions that if allowed to spread and fester can tear apart the fabric of decent society. They can eventually threaten democratic institutions.
Fortunately, Australia has not yet reached that point. But when the Government seeks to deny that the spread of non-standard insecure work is a problem we will not be able to address it. It is time to draw a line in the sand. We must not allow our country to go any further down this treacherous path.
The terms insecure work, precarious work and non-standard employment have been used interchangeably in much of the academic literature and policy debates. There is legitimate discussion about exactly what these terms cover. But there is near universal agreement among expert labour statisticians, reputable multilateral and tripartite institutions including the OECD and ILO, as well as among an extremely wide range of governments that these terms include several different categories of work. The exception to this consensus appears to be the Turnbull Government who has incorrectly asserted that only casual jobs are insecure. In their view all other forms of work constitute standard employment.