Helping community advocates fight bad legislation

In late 2014 we were engaged by the AED Legal Centre to advise on and support a disability-sector campaign to stop a piece of federal government legislation aimed at undermining a class action case to win full backpay for 10,000 workers with intellectual disabilities, who had been unfairly paid for many years under a discriminatory wage instrument.

We worked collaboratively with advocates from the AED Legal Centre, People with Disability Australia (PWDA), Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO), Inclusion Australia (formerly NCID), the Disability Action Network Australia (DANA) and the legal team from Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, who are running the class action case.

Our role involved providing strategic advice, developing messaging, supporting media work, producing briefing documents, creating opportunities for direct and third-party lobbying plus direct engagement with senators and influencers – including last minute discussions even as the bill was under consideration.

The result was the defeat of the BSWAT Bill in the Senate. Despite supporting this bad legislation in the lower house, we saw the ALP change their position in the upper house and oppose it. This would not have happened without effective advocacy and the sharing of personal stories from some of the workers who would have been impacted by the legislation.

We also saw Jackie Lambie, Nick Xenophon and John Madigan vote against the bill after having no awareness of it prior to contact from our campaign. The Greens remained opposed to the legislation from day one. In the end, we won by a single vote on the floor of the senate.

This was a big win for 10,000 of the lowest paid workers in Australia, albeit a short lived one. The Federal Government returned the legislation to the senate in 2015 and were successful in passing it with the support of John Madigan. However, the story has ended well with the class action being settled in December 2016 and more than $100 million in backpay being provided to workers subjected to pay discrimination via the BSWAT test.

Maurice Blackburn Principal Josh Bornstein said: “Social Change Projects provided invaluable support for a campaign to defeat the BSWAT legislation in the Senate by a coalition of disability advocates and organisations with support from Maurice Blackburn. This included developing the over-arching strategy and political and public messaging, assisting in the creation of key briefing documents and advice on lobbying key influencers and members of the Senate. Our campaign had limited resources and we were battling against a far better resourced opponent, the Federal Government. Ultimately, the campaign succeeded and the proposed legislation was defeated in the Senate. I am very grateful for the contribution to the campaign by Social Change Projects.”

Do you have a campaign you need to win? Call Daniel on 0402 596 297.