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February 20, 2018

Today marks the first hearing of the new Senate Inquiry into the Future of Work and Workers.

The world of work is changing before our eyes. We are seeing continued automation across industries, spanning everything from manufacturing, transport, retail, health and community services.

Just this week we saw the National Australia Bank begin shedding the first 1,000 of 6,000 positions, as the bank shifts towards automation.

We are also seeing the expansion of the gig economy, with independent contractor arrangements replacing permanent work, through companies like foodora, Airtasker and Uber.

Many of these changes are not new, but rather a continuation of massive changes that have been occurring within our labour market.

Technology can bring many benefits, but we need to ensure that Australian workers are prepared for the jobs of tomorrow, and are not left behind.

Unfortunately, the Turnbull Government has no future plan for Australia’s workforce. Ideological, anti-union tirades take precedence over long term thinking about job displacement, backed up by serious investment in our people.

In contrast, Labor has put a sharp focus on this issue, pressing the Government to help prepare vulnerable workers for change and even dedicating a Future of Work portfolio within its Shadow Ministry.

Today’s Senate inquiry is the next step to ensure that workers, the community, industry and Government are adequately prepared for workplace change.

It is also the first time a bi-partisan body, like the Senate, has considered the implications of workplace change for Australia.

The inquiry will be hearing from business, unions, academics and working Australians about what government should be doing, to make sure that working people have a decent future and that our government services are built to support them.

There are exciting opportunities for future work in Australia that we have to prepare for. Thinking about this issue now will mean that Australia’s workforce will be able to benefit from these changes.

The first hearing will take place today in Brisbane, before travelling to Sydney tomorrow, with more hearings to be announced.