Public hearings

The first public hearings were conducted in Mildura on 23 and 24 November 2015. You can read the Professor Anthony Forsyth's opening address below.

Public hearings were also conducted at the following dates and locations:

  • Dandenong, 30 November - 1 December 2015
  • Geelong, 7-8 December 2015
  • Melbourne, 8-10 February 2016
  • Shepparton, 15-16 February 2016
  • Melton, 22 February 2016
  • Ballarat, 23 February 2016
  • Melbourne, 25 February 2016
  • Morwell, 29 February - 1 March 2016

For information on the Inquiry's hearing procedures, download Practice Direction No.1 - Conduct of hearings of the inquiry  Practice direction No.1 – Conduct of hearings of the inquiry (DOCX 81.18 KB)DOCX icon

Opening statement from the Inquiry Chairperson

The first public hearing was opened by Professor Anthony Forsyth at Mildura on 23 November 2015.

Introduction

Good morning. My name is Professor Anthony Forsyth of RMIT University, and I am the Chairperson of the Victorian Inquiry into Labour Hire and Insecure Work.

Welcome to the Inquiry's first public hearing.

I begin by acknowledging the Traditional custodians and their ancestors of the land on which this event is taking place, and pay my respects to their Elders and the Elders of all Victoria's Aboriginal communities.

This hearing in Mildura today and tomorrow will be followed by other hearings around the state over the next few months.

About the Inquiry

The Inquiry is being conducted as a Formal Review under the Inquiries Act 2014.

On 10 September this year, the Minister for Industrial Relations, the Hon Natalie Hutchins MP, announced the establishment of the Inquiry and my appointment under the Inquiries Act as Chairperson.

The purpose of the Inquiry is set out in detail in its terms of reference, which are available on the Inquiry website.

In summary, the terms of reference require me to:

  • examine the extent and nature of the labour hire sector in Victoria, and insecure work more broadly, with a particular focus on vulnerable workers;
  • assess the implications of labour hire and insecure work for workers, businesses, the community and the economy; and
  • make recommendations based on the Inquiry's findings, taking into account the relative regulatory powers of the Victorian and Commonwealth governments, other regulatory approaches interstate and overseas, the objective of protecting vulnerable workers and Australia's international obligations.

I would like to make some brief comments about the Inquiry's focus on the labour hire sector.

The labour hire industry has grown over the last 30 years or so to become a major employer in Victoria and nationally.

Labour hire can assist businesses to supplement their permanent workforce, in order to meet genuine operational needs including peaks and troughs in demand for labour, and to manage staff absences and skills shortages.

The provision of on-hire labour to a host employer generally works well, where the labour hire operator – as the direct employer – meets its responsibilities for the minimum entitlements of its employees.

However, various research studies, inquiries and media reports indicate that problems can arise with the use of labour hire.

For this reason, the terms of reference require me to examine allegations that labour hire and sham contracting arrangements are being used to avoid the law (this includes workplace laws and award minimum standards; health and safety legislation; taxation and superannuation legislation, among others).

The Inquiry has been asked to gather evidence about the types of employers engaging in these abuses, and the sectors and regions where they are mainly occurring.

The Inquiry also has a broader focus on the issue of insecure work. The traditional model of ongoing, full-time employment has been under challenge in Australia and comparable countries for some time now.

The rise of casual and fixed-term employment, contracting (including "sham" contracting) and other forms of insecure work has given rise to concerns about the impact on workers, their families and the wider community.

The Inquiry will examine the social and economic consequences of insecure work; and the operation of business models that may be leading to mistreatment of vulnerable workers.

Role of Chairperson

My role, as Chairperson of the Inquiry, is to gather evidence from members of the public and relevant organisations; and based on that evidence, to make recommendations to the Government.

Evidence will be gathered in a number of ways. Firstly, there are these public hearings at which interested parties may provide information, either in public or in closed session.

Secondly, written submissions can be submitted to the Inquiry by 27 November; or on application to the Inquiry, within two weeks of that date (i.e. 11 December).

Thirdly, the Inquiry is holding a series of private meetings with a range of stakeholders.

I am to present my report to the Minister for Industrial Relations by 31 July 2016.

Process of the Inquiry and the hearings

This Inquiry is not a court of law. Its processes will be conducted in an informal manner.

Witnesses will not be required to swear an oath or make an affirmation. However, witnesses should note that it is an offence under the Inquiries Act to make a false or misleading statement, or to produce a false or misleading document, to the Inquiry.

It is also an offence under the Inquiries Act to disrupt these proceedings, or to interfere in the hearings in any way.

The Inquiries Act provides protection and immunity to persons giving evidence or information to the Inquiry, against civil action for anything said or done in the proceedings. However, witnesses may be liable for criminal prosecution for giving perjured evidence, or for contempt of these proceedings (such as abusive or disruptive behaviour).

Hearings of the Inquiry will be open to the public and the media, with the following exception:

  • Where I have made an order excluding any person from a hearing in accordance with section 104 of the Inquiries Act. This may be done, for example, following a request from a witness to provide information in a closed hearing. Such an order has been issued, and there will be a number of closed sessions over these two days of hearings.

The media have been given permission to film and record this opening statement. However, once I begin taking evidence, there will be no filming or electronic recording of the proceedings.

The Inquiry will be taking transcript of the evidence presented in both public hearings and closed sessions. These transcripts are for the Inquiry's internal purposes only, and will not be published.

It should also be noted that I am empowered to make an order prohibiting or restricting publication of information in respect of a hearing under section 106 of the Inquiries Act.

A more detailed description of the rules of these proceedings is provided in Practice Direction No.1 - Conduct of hearings of the inquiry  Practice direction No.1 – Conduct of hearings of the inquiry (DOCX 81.18 KB)DOCX icon. This has been posted on the Inquiry website, and a copy is available from the Inquiry Secretariat.

There are members of the Inquiry Secretariat present (wearing name tags), so if you have any questions or need assistance, please approach them.

Finally, I need to make it clear that while the Inquiry is most interested in hearing any information relevant to the terms of reference, I do not have any power to resolve specific issues or complaints that any individual or organisation may have. The information I obtain can only be used to inform the Inquiry's findings and recommendations to the government.

Page last updated: 20 July 2016