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Workplace laws set to pass parliament

The federal government’s industrial relations laws look set to pass parliament following a deal with crossbench senator David Pocock.

November 28, 2022
By Andrew Brown
28 November 2022

Laws enshrining multi-employer bargaining are set to pass federal parliament, after the Labor government struck a deal on the laws with independent senator David Pocock.

The upper house will use the last sitting week for the year to debate the industrial relations reform, with the government looking to pass the laws by the end of the year.

While the passage of the bill initially looked unclear, Senator Pocock agreed to support the laws following late-night negotiations on Saturday, ensuring key amendments.

The government needed the support of the Greens and one crossbencher in order for the laws to pass.

Senator Pocock previously said the process behind the bill was rushed, but indicated sensible changes had been made.

“This is a great outcome and really strikes the right balance to get wages moving for those who need it but also to have some really important safeguards in place, particularly for small businesses,” he said.

Under agreed changes to the legislation, the government will set up an independent body to review social support payments before every federal budget.

Small businesses with fewer than 20 employees will be excluded from single-interest multi-enterprise bargaining.

Businesses with fewer than 50 employees will have extra safeguards if they want to opt out of multi-employer bargaining, while the minimum bargaining period will also be increased from six to nine months.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the breakthrough in negotiations on the bill represented a win for workers.

“The (industrial relations) bill will ensure that there’s a more level playing field,” he said.

“This is a sensible proposition and Labor has been prepared to sit down with business with unions with the crossbench with civil society, to work through the legislation.”

Opposition workplace relations spokeswoman Michaelia Cash said the bill would unfairly target small businesses and warned of increased strike action.

“It is going to be a really rough Christmas for so many employers out there,” she said.

“I am disappointed, because I don’t think this augurs well for the job creators in the country, but that’s because the job creators themself have said – the bill is not fit to pass.”

Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Andrew McKellar said the laws would not lead to increased wages.

“(They) will only add cost and complexity to Australian businesses at a time when they are dealing with deteriorating conditions,” he said.

But ACTU secretary Sally McManus welcomed a deal being struck that allowed the bill to pass.

“It gives people hope that we can start unwinding the large numbers of insecure jobs that we have in this country,” she said.

Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie also weighed on Monday, telling Nine’s Today program she fears the changes will give unions “unheralded power” and end with more strikes around the country.

“There is no choker chain on unions,” she added.

Senator Lambie was also sceptical about the plan to set up an independent body to review social support payments before every budget.

“When they (the government) say we will look at the rates of JobSeeker, it will come down to the recommendations and whether or not the government wants to pick up the recommendations,” she said.

“I’m not sure Labor has done this in good faith.”

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