The Australian government made $15 million available for independent contractors over the next four years in the 2006/07 Federal Budget.
The fund will be used for an education and enforcement campaign. The Minister for Workplace Relations Kevin Andrews said that in addition to an education campaign, existing compliance and enforcement roles will be enhanced to deal with increased requests for assistance, and to investigate and enforce penalties under the Independent Contractors Bill.
A boost to the compliance and enforcement program will deal with increased requests for assistance and will investigate and enforce penalties for 'sham arrangements' where genuine employees are being incorrectly treated as independent contractors. This role will be undertaken by the Office for Workplace Services.
"The growth of independent contracting and labour hire employment in the last 15 years indicates that it has become a preferred work arrangement for many Australians," Andrews said.
"Currently some 10 percent of the workforce, or 1.4 million Australians identify themselves as independent contractors across a wide range of industries."
The government has announced that the status of independent contractors will be enshrined and protected through legislation.
The Independent Contractors Bill, to be introduced in the current Parliamentary session, will, for the first time at the federal level, protect the freedom of contractors to bargain with their principals and prevent the workplace relations system being used to undermine the status of independent contractors.