24 July 2019

Attorney-General Christian Porter appears not to know the difference between a fine (a criminal penalty imposed by a court) and a so-called “contrition payment” (a voluntary payment made to avoid being sued by the Fair Work Ombudsman). He also appears intent on restricting any criminal wage theft offence: “I’m open-minded to submissions that there should be further penalties there, inclusive of potentially criminal penalties reserved for repetitious breaches.” Consider this scenario: instead of depositing $3000 takings in the bank at the end of their shift, an employee brings it home and deposits it into their piggy bank. When caught, they point out their behaviour was not “repetitious”. Would they be charged with theft anyway? Of course. Now consider an employer who advertises a fixed term position over a few weeks, the employee earns $3000 in wages, but the boss tells them to piss off and refuses to pay. This is not repetitious, but it is deliberate. Why should it not be criminal wage theft?