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


Minister Tony Burke’s Department of the Employment and Workplace Relations has today admitted it has underpaid more staff than it had previously publicly revealed, although they are not sure how many or by how much.

Answering questions from Shadow Minister Senator Michaelia Cash during a Senate Estimates hearing officials revealed that ongoing payment errors were made well after the initial cohort of 99 employees’ underpayments were first discovered.

“Tony Burke likes to lecture Australian small and family businesses about paying their staff correctly but has remained completely silent about his own Department’s extensive underpayments of its own staff. His hypocrisy is breathtaking,” Senator Cash said.

The initial underpayments occurred between 7 July 2022 and 11 August 2023. But further underpayments have been discovered between 11 August 2023 and 11 December 2023.

The Department was unable to say how many were underpaid between August and December 2023 but expected some of the 99 who were previously underpaid would also be part of the new cohort.

The Department also revealed they had so far spent over $220,000 on external consultants in an attempt to rectify the underpayments. This included $116,000 on legal expenses, $90,000 on data analysis and calculation of entitlements and $15,000 on communication services.

The more than $220,000 expenditure was incurred despite the fact the initial cohort of 99 were underpaid a total of $62,925.60.

“What we’ve seen today is an absolute indictment on the Department responsible the workplace framework of this nation,’’ Senator Cash said.

“This Department has still not sorted out its underpayment problems that were discovered in June last year. They’ve admitted today their audit will not be finalised until June this year,’’ she said.

“It is an absolute disgrace that Minister Burke has not demanded his own Department get this issue sorted out,’’ Senator Cash said.

“How are small businesses in Australia expected to negotiate Australian complex workplace laws if the Department which administers them can’t even get paying their own staff right and then take over a year to rectify the situation,’’ Senator Cash said.