The Morrison Government has pledged to revive its Ensuring Integrity laws as early as this week, after its shock defeat in the Senate last Thursday.
In what was branded a “win for union thuggery”, Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party sensationally sided with Labor, the Greens and Jacqui Lambie to vote down the Ensuring Integrity Bill.
The Senate vote was tied at 34 votes, meaning the Bill did not have the required majority support to pass into law.
The government is expected to reintroduce and pass the Bill through the House of Representatives this week – the final parliamentary sitting period for 2019 – before retesting the support of the Senate early next year.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the result was disappointing given One Nation had provided assurances it would support the Bill if its amendments were met, which they were. Nonetheless, he reiterated his government’s commitment to the legislation.
“We’ll be taking the Ensuring Integrity Bill forward again,” the Prime Minister said.
“It will come back into the House of Representatives this week after it goes back through Party Room this week, and we will take it forward because we believe in it.
“We believe that union thugs should not go on to building sites and threaten people or in any area of the workplace and be able to do that on and on… and not face any expulsion from the industry for doing that.
“They should be (faced with expulsion). I put laws in place to do that to bankers. It should be in place to do that to union thugs too.”
Attorney General and Minister for Industrial Relations Christian Porter lamented being blindsided after weeks of negotiation with Pauline Hanson, Malcolm Roberts and One Nation.
“The last words that Malcolm Roberts said in the Senate was that it’s now time for integrity in the union movement which is what hard working Australians expect,” he said.
“Ultimately, the vote of Malcolm Roberts and Pauline Hanson didn’t reflect that stated sentiment.
“Some of the matters that were raised by Pauline Hanson as reasons that she didn’t support the legislation were never raised with me in weeks of negotiation.
“It’s a very disappointing result but it won’t stop us from trying to protect Australians who work on construction sites from thuggery, from violence, from intimidation, they deserve the protection of the law and that’s what we will seek to deliver to them to trusting.”
Minister Porter also confirmed the legislation will return and said One Nation will again have to decide if it takes the side of hardworking Australians who want to turn up to construction sites, whether they’re apprentices or tradespeople, and ‘do their job without being harassed, spat at, or intimidated by thugs from the CFMEU’.
“This is important reform which seeks to ensure that registered organisations obey the law. It is as simple as that,” he said.
Senator Hanson said despite One Nation putting forward 11 amendments to the Ensuring Integrity Bill, there was a quantity of non-amendable changes that prevented full support.
The One Nation leader claimed that the Bill provided unfettered powers to administrators should they be appointed over registered organisations.
Crossbench senator Jacqui Lambie said she is willing to reconsider her support for the Ensuring Integrity laws if they include measures to remove controversial CFMMEU boss John Setka.
AMMA disappointed, highlights more IR reform to do
Australian Resources and Energy Group AMMA was disappointed the Ensuring Integrity laws failed to secure majority support in the Senate, but encouraged the Morrison Government to continue its pursuit of other important industrial relations reforms.
“The Morrison Government has begun a broadly consultative process on a number of industrial relations reforms that would significantly benefit the Australian economy, create jobs and grow wages,” Steve Knott, AMMA CEO, said.
“One such area is project life agreements for major resources and energy projects, a reform which would assist in securing multi-billions of dollars in investment capital in Australia. This long overdue reform should have bipartisan support based on the Federal Opposition’s comments shortly before the election.
“Other urgent priorities include fixing enterprise bargaining, reducing the complexity of Australia’s industrial awards system and addressing issues with dismissal and general protection laws.
“While the Ensuring Integrity measures are extremely important, it is also encouraging to see the Government recognise there is more work to be done on industrial relations reform than union compliance.
“We trust the Senate Crossbench will assess and vote on future reforms on their individual merits and not be unduly influenced by vested interest misinformation campaigns.”
Mr Knott reiterated the majority of unions and their officials, who respect and abide by Australia’s workplace laws, would have nothing to fear from the legislation.
“Contrary to the misrepresentations of the Federal Opposition, the Ensuring Integrity Bill would simply have promoted compliance with Australia’s workplace laws and acted as a deterrent to the recidivist law-breaking of a minority group of union officials,” he said.
“These are important measures that would have considerably improved our nation’s industrial relations environment and lowered the exorbitant cost of public infrastructure projects borne by the taxpayer.”
Passing the Ensuring Integrity Bill is one of eight workplace reform priorities identified for the 46th Parliament in AMMA’s policy booklet Pathway to Productivity.