Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you, Chair. Minister, has the Tasmanian Hospitality Association made any representation to you on the issue of wage theft? Are you aware of how there have been some quite high-profile cases of wage theft within the hospitality sector where employers are not paying their staff what they are legally required to? Has there been any conversation with you about wage theft?
Mr STREET - Between me and the THA as minister, there has not been a conversation yet. But in saying that, I have only met with the THA once since I got the portfolio six weeks ago. I attended the THA awards night last Monday night. That was only my second interaction with the THA since I came into the portfolio. I would imagine that they are as concerned as the general public is about any wage theft, as you put it, that goes on.
Ms O'CONNOR - Perhaps you could talk more broadly about the issue of wage theft, because the Victorian Government has enacted the Wage Theft Act 2020. As well as Victoria, Queensland has made wage theft a crime in the Criminal Code and other legislation, Wage Theft Amendment Bill 2020. New South Wales has passed the Taxation Administration Amendment Combating Wage Theft Bill 2021, which empowers the state to collect payroll tax which was not collected due to wage theft.
Do you support the Tasmanian Government having a legislative response to make sure that employees are not being robbed when they go to work?
Mr STREET - I am not going to commit to a 'yes or no' answer on a legislative framework. But I will say that I am absolutely concerned about any potential wage theft that goes on within any industry, not just the hospitality industry.
When I answered your initial question, I should have also probably deferred to Ange Conway because I am sure that the THA has raised the issue of wage theft, and any potential government response, with the department itself in its interactions with the THA.
Ms O'CONNOR - Not necessarily.
Mr STREET - Not necessarily, but I think they may have.
Ms CONWAY - We haven't had a specific conversation about wage theft. But at the moment we are having quite detailed conversations with both tourism industry and hospitality industry representatives around workforce generally.
It is fair to say that COVID-19 has really heavily impacted on the tourism and hospitality workforces. We know businesses have got some real challenges with getting staff to fill shifts, so there are lots of different things that are being looked at. But one of the key things we are talking about at the moment is that we have really got to look at measures that support best practice in industry and employment. Being a good employer is a really good way of attracting and retaining your staff. That is going to be an area of focus for us moving forward with both of those sectors because they are not going to be able to solve their workforce challenges.
Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you.
Minister, given that the area of your portfolio responsibility touches on all hospitality workers, and the history of wage theft within the hospitality sector, can I ask that you put this on your agenda? And that perhaps you have a conversation with the unions who represent hospitality workers as well as employers in the hospitality sector because, with the greatest of respect, it has been some employers who have not paid their staff what they were required to pay, which is an act of theft. So, can you make a commitment to having a look at this and maybe having a conversation with the relevant union, as well as employers?
Mr STREET - You can ask and I can accept that I will proactively raise this, both with the department and with stakeholders within the industry, particularly in light of the facts that you have given me about how other states are dealing with this issue legislatively.
I am not saying that we necessarily need a legislative framework in Tasmania but I am more than happy to commit to having the conversations and, I think you used the phrase; 'put it on my agenda'. It's on the agenda.
Ms O'CONNOR - Yes, because presumably the portfolio responsibility for this would sit either with the Treasurer or the Attorney General. But, as always in government, you need someone to drive change in order for there to be the response we need. Given the reliance of young people on the hospitality sector for employment and survival, it is something that a proper small l Liberal government should be concerned about, don't you agree?
Mr STREET - Absolutely. And there's any number of examples in the four portfolios I've got where there are issues that need to be dealt with in terms of legislation, where the actual legislation doesn't sit with me but where I'll be pursuing outcomes.
Ms O'CONNOR - We'll keep talking.