Lambie Vote Defeats Disability Payment Scheme Bill
25 November 2014 at 10:34 am
The Senate has narrowly rejected a controversial payment assessment tool for people with disability, known as the Business Services Wage Assessment Tool (BSWAT) Bill, by just one vote delivered by former Palmer United Party Senator Jacqui Lambie.
In one of Lambie’s first votes as an Independent Senator, the final vote was 30 in favour and 31 against, with Lambie voting with the Labor, Greens and other Independent Senators to defeat the Bill.
The Australian Greens says the Senate rejected the BSWAT Bill because it failed to address fundamental discrimination against people with disability.
"The clear message from the people with disabilities and peak disability organisations was that this Bill should not pass Parliament, and I am glad that the Greens were able to help deliver that outcome," Australian Greens spokesperson on disability issues, Senator Rachel Siewert said.
"Compensation for people with disability who have been paid unfair wages under the flawed BSWAT process must be a priority, but this Bill failed to deliver a fair outcome.
"It would have paid only 50 per cent of the wages people are owed and would have demanded they waive legal rights to pursue compensation through the courts before accessing the payment.
"The Australian Human Rights Commission told Senate Estimates last week that that 33 per cent of all complaints made under the Disability Discrimination Act relate to employment, a sign of the ongoing discrimination that exists in Australia's job market.
"We need stronger measures to support people with disability in the workforce and make sure that they are paid a fair wage.
"Government should be doing all they can to support people with disability into employment.”
The Shadow Minister for Disability Reform Jenny Macklin said Labor moved to amend the Bill to allow those people who chose to participate in the Government’s scheme to continue to participate in a class action that reflects their common law rights.
“Unfortunately, the Government refused to accept Labor’s sensible and fair amendments,” Macklin said.
Law firm Maurice Blackburn, which is representing up to 10,000 intellectually disabled workers in a class action over unfair pay, has also welcomed the Senate’s decision to reject the Bill.
“Under the Federal Government’s Business Services Wage Assessment Tool Bill, disabled workers who had received discriminatory wages while working at Australian Disability Enterprises would have received only half of the back pay there were entitled to,” the law firm said.
“To access the Government’s payment scheme, the Bill also required workers with intellectual disability to waive their rights to pursue legal action over the unfair pay,” an associate in employment law at Maurice Blackburn, Emeline Gaske, said.
“The defeat of the Bill was an important win for the workers, some who were earning less than $1 an hour.
“This decision protects the rights of vulnerable workers to get fair compensation for years of discrimination, and paves the way for workers to get what they're rightfully owed through the class action.”
The class action is due to return to the Federal Court on 16 December for a directions hearing.