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The Greens Call For 'Conversation' Over A Shorter Working Week

Richard Di Natale wants it to be part of the conversation about the future of work.

15/03/2017 7:28 AM AEDT | Updated 15/03/2017 1:43 PM AEDT
Fairfax Media
The Greens leader Richard Di Natale is expected to speak at the national press club on Wednesday.

The Greens are calling for a shorter working week and a debate about a guaranteed adequate income as part of a national conversation about the future of work.

Leader Richard Di Natale told the national Press Club on Wednesday the rise of digital and automated technologies means up to five million Australian jobs may be lost in the next ten years.

"How about we start a conversation about the future of work in this country? And how about we question the entrenched political consensus that a good life can only come from more work, from working harder," he said.

"How about we have a discussion that includes the things we really value in life? Spending time with our friends and family, relationships, leisure, volunteering, contributing to your local community, creativity.

He said while we hear plenty about the 16 percent of people who want to work more "what we don't hear about is from the more than one in four Australians who say, 'We want to work less.'"

"A 4-day working week or a 6-hour day, it might actually make us happier and create more opportunities for other who want more work. It might reduce the cost of full-time childcare."

Di Natale earlier told Lateline the Greens have a work-life-balance bill before parliament.

"If you are an individual employee, it should be alright to request flexible work hours and it should be up to the employer to prove why you can't have them," he on Tuesday night.

"We have to start making progress in this area, because we have so many people in this country who are working more hours than they should.

"At the same time, we have so many people who are underemployed or indeed unemployed."

According to the University of Melbourne's 2015 HILDA study, 16 per cent of all employed people would prefer to work more hours each week, while about 26 percent would prefer to work fewer hours.

The norm for full time work in most Australian industry awards and agreements is 37.5 hours a week.

France has a 35 hour working week, but that is under review.

Di Natale is also argued that a future work model would have to include discussion of a guaranteed adequate income -- where citizens get paid a minimum wage if they cannot earn.

He acknowledged there was debate over the merits of the policy and there are trials under way in Canada, Scotland and Finland.

"Let's engage in that debate and see if there is merit to moving to that," he said.

"It is interesting, isn't it, we are so quick to create a trial for quarantining Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander welfare, despite the evidence against it, but we won't seriously contemplate looking at the outcomes of the international trials that look at universal basic income.

"We know it could drive innovation and research. It won't consign people to poverty."

He said the Greens biggest job was to bring people together and to "fix the Democratic deficit.

"That is our biggest challenge right now. We don't have a budget deficit, it is the democratic deficit that is our biggest problem.

"The first step has to be an end to the corrupting influence of political donations from the big end of town. We have got to get rid of big-money politics."


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