“Union-busting” Bill back before parliament

Union-busting legislation has been reintroduced amid tense scenes in parliament, less than a week after the bill was defeated in the Senate.

Dec 04, 2019, updated Dec 04, 2019
Photo: AAP/Kelly Barnes

Photo: AAP/Kelly Barnes

Labor tried to delay Attorney-General Christian Porter’s introduction of the bill, which has been slightly tweaked to include amendments from the Senate cross bench.

Porter said the draft laws, which make it easier to deregister unions and ban officials for repeated law-breaking, would benefit workers and the economy.

“(The bill) is not going away because the problem isn’t going away,” Porter told the lower house on Wednesday.

The attorney-general pointed to figures from the Australian Building and Construction Commission during his speech, saying there had been 400,000 court-ordered penalties related to unions over the last few months.

Workers had been spat on by union officials, he said.

Labor’s industrial relations spokesman Tony Burke tried to delay the bill from being debated until mid-2022, saying the government couldn’t accept that the draft laws had been defeated.

“What they want to present is effectively the ensuring double standards bill,” he told the chamber.

“A bill that is part of this government’s two-stage tactic.

“Stage one: attack the organisations that defend pay and conditions. Stage two: attack the pay and conditions themselves.”

Labor leader Anthony Albanese lost a vote to make parliament debate low wages growth, telling the prime minister to stop being so stubborn and abandon the “anti-worker legislation”.

“He’s an ad man with no plan,” he said.

Master Builders Australia – representing the construction industry – was quick to pounce, applauding the government after the bill was revived.

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“This isn’t a union-busting bill as many make out and there are lots of good unions out there – we just want the unions in our industry to be like those in every other industry,” the group’s chief Denita Wawn said.

Porter is gearing up for a fresh round of consultation with cross bench senators.

He is prepared to make further amendments to win their support.

Albanese said even with further changes, the bill would still represent an attack on ordinary workers.

“Every time this government sees a nurse or sees a teacher, what they see is a trade unionist who they deride as being a thug,” he told ABC radio.

The coalition’s “ensuring integrity” bill was rebuffed in the upper house last week, with One Nation opposing it in a humiliating defeat for the government.


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