Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash

Shadow Attorney-General

Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations

Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate

Senator for Western Australia


14 FEBRUARY 2024


Tony Burke’s Department of Employment and Workplace Relations was involved in the drafting of the Greens “right to disconnect” legislation in December last year but did not consult with stakeholders on the matter.

Answering questions from Shadow Minister Senator Michaelia Cash at a Senate Estimates hearing today department officials revealed they issued drafting instructions on a number of occasions between December and when the legislation was introduced in the Senate last week.

“Mr Burke hid the details from the business community, avoiding any scrutiny of the law before it was introduced in the Senate a day before it was to be voted on last week,’’ Senator Cash said.

“The lack of transparency and consultation is an absolute disgrace,’’ she said.

The department had been monitoring the issue of the right to disconnect since as early as September 2022, when it was raised in a Work and Care Inquiry.

But despite examining the issue over a long period of time, officials revealed that it was only discovered on February 8, the day the bill was due to be voted on in the Senate, that the legislation, as drafted, allowed for criminal penalties of up to one year.

“What is clear is that Tony Burke, his office and his department have worked with the Greens since last year on the right to disconnect legislation,” Senator Cash said.

“Mr Burke has tried to pass this off as a last-minute law brought on by the Greens when he and his office have been involved for a very long time,’’ she said.

“The Government’s refusal to consult on their right to disconnect changes saw the provision for criminal penalties in the legislation which the Government claims they didn’t notice until the last minute,’’ Senator Cash said.

“The criminal penalties issue was apparently discovered not until 11.45am on February 8. This would have been discovered much earlier if they had consulted with stakeholders,’’ she said.

“Even then they had ample time to fix the issue before a vote was brought on in the Senate. Instead, the Government voted for the criminal penalties while the Coalition voted against it,’’ Senator Cash said.