I rise to speak on the Child Employment Amendment Bill 2022. I will be supporting this bill today. The reforms of this bill have been welcomed by many to streamline the oversight of child employment. The bill will also free up the Wage Inspectorate Victoria to educate employers about their obligations under the act and increase their ability to address risky employment situations for children. This is very important.
I welcome the increased range and size of sanctions, as they will increase the ability to derive compliance from businesses and other organisations that employ children.
Currently children aged 11 years and over can undertake delivery work where their employer obtains a general industries permit. Children aged 13 years and over can be employed under the general industries permit.
We all agree we must have protections in place to protect these children who are vulnerable to exploitation from employers. Up till this point there has been widespread misunderstanding among employers when it comes to child employment. There is a commonly held belief that children are able to be employed from the age of 14 years and nine months. This is not the case. Clearly, further education on the act is needed for employers.
There are a number of points I urge the government to consider when developing and enforcing the regulations of this bill. One: the streamlining provided by the licensing must not result in any cuts to the funding and levels of staff that provide oversight of compliance with the Child Employment Act 2003. Compliance oversight is critical to protecting children. This cannot be compromised. Two: the new system must continue to make sure that the parents are making informed decisions in approving the work that their children do. Not only are employers largely unaware of the act but parents are as well. They should be fully informed prior to giving their approval or disapproval for their child to work. Three: there is also a need for the Victorian government to monitor that children are not subjected to exploitative and harmful employment arrangements through the gig economy. Gig economy platforms and businesses may seek to implement models to avoid being captured by the provisions of the Child Employment Act. We know the gig economy is founded on exploitative workplace practices. We also know that they have been under-regulated and allowed to take over a large portion of our workforce. Children must be protected from the gig economy. But I will commend this bill to the house.