Government seeks to authorise bosses spying on workers 

Last year lobbying by the ETU and other unions successfully defeated the parts of a proposed government law that would have allowed employers to snoop on workers’ emails and browsing history under the cover of ‘national security’.

Now the Morrison government is trying to sneak those intrusive and unnecessary changes back through the parliament in a ‘version two’ of the Bill – and they’ve ignored their obligation to consult with stakeholders including the ETU.

Last year the ETU persuaded the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security
(PJCIS) to recommend the government remove invasive employee ‘security assessments’. They told the government to ensure that any future version of proposed security legislation and associated rules would be co-developed with key stakeholders like the ETU through a consultation process.

The government is now trying to circumvent this process and sneak the Bill through instead in what we can only describe as a political play to try and create a pretend ‘wedge’ on Labor over national security.

The ETU sent a submission to the Department of Home Affairs (DoHA) outlining concerns we had for workers’ privacy about the Bill. The Department assured us and other stakeholders that a process of consultation would be happening in due course.

Then, on the same day DoHA finally invited the ETU to discuss concerns we had about the proposed laws – the Liberal Party re-introduced them into the parliament.

The co-design process for the rules contemplated in the 2022 Bill has not occurred to the ETU’s knowledge. There is no framework for this co-design process and no requirement to either consult with employees or their Unions, nor to consider, incorporate or respond to concerns raised by workers through their Unions.

This is yet another failure of this government to do its job thoroughly and follow the express recommendations of its own committee. It’s another piece of legislation that throws ordinary working people under the bus and is all about political tactics and has nothing to do with national security.

The ETU is fighting this proposed change by engaging with the Parliamentary Inquiry and lobbying all members of the Senate to seek changes to the proposed laws. We need to protect workers’ rights and privacy. There are just three more days of parliament before an election is called so it is likely an increasingly desperate Liberal Government will do anything to hold onto power, including granting employers the right to spy on workers.

The Government cannot get away with such reckless behaviour and we will fight this all the way.

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This article was publised on 27 February 2022.