Senator RICE: The other issue I wanted to raise was the situation with Domino's and the investigation that I understand you were doing. In particular, what was uncovered by the Fairfax investigation showing widespread underpayment of wages, deliberate underpayment of penalties, illegal sale of sponsorships, and migrants? First of all, tell me what is the current situation with Domino's.
Ms James: We have received a number of requests for assistance from people working at Domino's. We are also aware of the allegations contained in various newspaper reports. We have an ongoing investigation where we have been conducting visits to stores and carrying out audits. It is an ongoing investigation. I think we have still got audits in the field and we are still analysing the outcome of what we found. I am not able to comment on it much further, although Mr Campbell may be able to elaborate a little on what I said.
Mr Campbell: Certainly. We have been running a rolling series of store visits and inspections since December last year. That is in addition to work that we have been doing with Domino's in the past. Those investigations, as Ms James has pointed out, are ongoing. We expect to do more as well as these issues become more prominent. They are certainly of concern to us. The agency will be taking measures to identify and address them.
Senator RICE: Is Domino's cooperating?
Mr Campbell: Domino's s assisting us with our inquiries.
Senator RICE: Have there been things you have requested of Domino's that they have not cooperated with?
Mr Campbell: I do not want to disclose too much information about how we are engaging with Domino's other than to say that they remain persons of interest and we have active investigations involving a number of their operations.
Senator RICE: Have you requested that Domino's hand over the names of franchisees that have underpaid workers?
Mr Campbell: As I said, I am not going to disclose details of the investigation while they remain on foot.
Senator RICE: Have you requested that of them?
Mr Campbell: Those types of details are certainly a feature of our inquiries of them.
Senator RICE: Can you answer my question or are you claiming public interest immunity?
Mr Campbell: No, I am not going to answer your question. I am trying to assist you by saying that we will do a detailed and thorough investigation.
Senator RICE: Yes. But my question was specific as to whether you have requested the names of the franchisees that are underpaying—
Mr Campbell: We have requested a large amount of documentation from Domino's to assist us in our inquiries.
Senator RICE: Yes. Have you requested the names of the franchisees that have underpaid workers?
ACTING CHAIR (Senator Marshall): I think Mr Campbell has said he is not going to answer that. If you want to insist, I will ask him to make a claim of public interest immunity.
Senator Cash: He is not trying to obfuscate. Chair, rather than go down the public interest immunity claim path, which I am happy to support if required, perhaps he could take it on notice and see what information is able to be provided without compromising the integrity of the investigation. That is all that it is about, on my analysis, listening to the evidence.
ACTING CHAIR: Senator Rice, does that satisfy you?
Senator Cash: And we can come back to you on this. It will not be today, obviously. If we could take advice? You are asking very genuine questions—
Senator RICE: Yes. I just want to know whether—
Senator Cash: Absolutely. We are all concerned. So perhaps we can take some advice as to what we can provide and get back to Senator Rice—if you are happy with that, Acting Chair.
ACTING CHAIR: Yes. If you cannot provide it, I think you just need to outline the reasons why it is not in the public interest to do so.
Senator Cash: If you are happy with that, yes.
Senator RICE: Okay.
ACTING CHAIR: Thank you, Minister.
Senator RICE: In the Sydney Morning Herald, the biggest New South Wales franchisee—I do not have this information here—was named as underpaying workers. Are you investigating that particular franchisee?
Mr Campbell: I do not have that information to hand.
ACTING CHAIR: Will you take that on notice?
Senator RICE: Can you take that on notice?
Mr Campbell: I am happy to take it on notice.
Senator RICE: Have you met with the Domino's head office since the story broke last month?
Mr Campbell: Yes, we have had ongoing conversations with them.
Senator RICE: When a worker came to you, in the past couple of years when the compliance deed was in operation, did you refer them to Domino's?
Mr Campbell: Where it was appropriate to do so.
Senator RICE: What does that mean?
Mr Campbell: Where we identified a general underpayment, the intention was that Domino's would work with the franchise to deal with that and report back to us in due course on the findings of that referral. Where there is serious noncompliance, we do not refer it to Domino's or any other employer to investigate.
Senator RICE: Of those employees, how many would have come to you?
Mr Campbell: Again, I do not have those numbers to hand, but I am happy to take them on notice.
Senator RICE: Because it is a concern if you are basically just referring them to Domino's if there is a risk to a worker who is going to be feeling afraid being potentially intimidated—
Mr Campbell: That would be a feature of a decision not to refer something.
Senator RICE: Yes. We know from the 7/Eleven inquiry the amount of intimidation that was going on of workers that were blowing the whistle. So I am concerned if your main modus operandi was to refer them back to Domino's.
Mr Campbell: No. What we are trying to do is engender a culture of compliance across a network of operations, in this case Domino's. Our view is that large corporations like this should not have the benefit of a taxpayers' regulator to clean up these issues. We think that is an obligation that the operation and the franchise should have. We are giving them first chance at dealing with these issues. The individual claimant always has the ability to come to us with their concern about how that has been dealt with or raise the concern that they do not want us to refer this issue to Domino's.
Senator RICE: You do not know how many of those you would not have referred to Domino's, though?
Mr Campbell: It is not a huge number that were referred to Domino's. I just do not have the exact number to hand.
Senator RICE: Do you think Domino's should open up a compensation scheme, given that they have revealed that something like $4½ million has been underpaid over the years? According to the media, some workers have not received the money, despite it coming to the attention of Domino's as long ago as two years.
Ms James: We are still undergoing this inquiry, if you like. 7/Eleven set a new benchmark when it comes to franchises stepping up and taking responsibility for wages that have been underpaid by its franchisees. It is a company that, as a result of the findings of our inquiry—and note that we carried out an extensive inquiry and reported on that inquiry, which informed our compliance partnership with them—has stepped up and done that. First and foremost, it is the employer's responsibility. The minister's bill that was introduced into the House yesterday makes it clear that it is still the franchisee or the employer's responsibility to pay workers. But in the event that they do not pay, we have consistently said that organisations like well-known brands and franchisors among them and other companies, such as Baiada, established companies like Coles and Woolworths and the like, should step up. They have a moral and ethical responsibility to make good underpayments of either their labour supply contractors or franchisees and the like. We are still unpicking what has been going on here. We do not know the full extent of it yet. Once we have finished our investigations we will be in a position to form a view about what should be done. But certainly the workers are entitled to be paid and receive those minimum rates that they are entitled to. If the franchisees do not pay or are unable to pay then it does beg the question about what the role of the franchisor profiting from the brand has had to play in that.
Senator RICE: Indeed. It really looks like we have a situation, again, where there is rampant underpayment of wages and yet we as a government are unable to do anything about it.
Ms James: I would say there is nothing to stop Domino's doing that today. 7/Eleven set up their wage repayment scheme—
Senator RICE: Can I just ask one more question, before we break for lunch, about your compliance deed signed between Fair Work and Domino's. I understand that in the most recent one you agreed to let Domino's see draft press releases 24 hours in advance of releasing them. Is that the case? It seems to me to be really indicative of what is not the sort of relationship that there needs to be between the Fair Work Ombudsman and Domino's.
Ms James: We often, as a courtesy, give companies that we are about to say things about in the media notice that we are going to do that. That is often fair. As part of these compliance partnerships we offer to show them our press release. We do not negotiate our press releases with them and nor do we shy away from shining a light on exploitative conduct when it occurs. In fact, I sometimes receive criticism for the strength of our media releases. Occasionally my chief counsel tells me I might be getting into trouble with the court. I think we are absolutely pushing out the boundaries around our media and how we talk about the conduct of companies in the press. But natural justice and what we hope are good relationships with responsible brands also support the idea that you might—
Senator RICE: Yes, but are they a responsible brand? From what we are uncovering, no.
Ms James: We are investigating—
Senator RICE: To me it does not sound like it is a good brand.
Ms James: I would say that that compliance partnership has expired. Right now I do not know that I would be negotiating a new one with them. Certainly we have some work to do with these investigations before we decide what our posture is towards this company.
Senator RICE: Thank you, Chair.