Weeks after restoring the industrial relations portfolio to a frontbench cabinet position, the Morrison Government is this week upping the ante on workplace relations reform by planning to push through legislation cracking down on union lawbreaking.

The Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment (Ensuring Integrity) Bill 2017 has languished before the Senate since being introduced to parliament in August 2017, but is expected to be put under the microscope in parliament this week.

AMMA has been one of the key drivers of the legislation, which if passed would:

  • Facilitate restoration of regulatory balance and, in turn, regeneration of public confidence in relation to the conduct and operations of Registered Organisations in Australia;
  • Improve the ability of an independent arbiter to take appropriate action against Registered Organisations and their officers who fail to meet standards that their members and the community rightfully expect;
  • Reinstate a conventional public interest test to apply to Registered Organisations seeking to amalgamate, ensuring amalgamations are in the interests of employers, employees and the broader Australian community; and
  • Ensure that all Registered Organisations and their officers consistently operate according to the very laws that empower them with special privileges.

With the support of AMMA and other business groups, new Industrial Relations Minister Kelly O’Dwyer is reportedly lobbying for Senate Crossbench support of the Bill.

AMMA Chief Executive Steve Knott said it was time for the Australian Parliament to “better safeguard the Australian community from the intimidation, thuggery and contemptuous disregard for our nation’s workplace laws commonly witnessed on Australia’s building and construction sites”.

“The specialist workplace regulator for the building and construction industry, the ABCC, does an admirable job in investigating and bringing about prosecutions against the CFMMEU for thuggery, intimidation and unlawfulness on Australian building sites,” Mr Knott said.

“However, the evidence is overwhelming that Australia’s current workplace laws, fines and penalties are proving woefully inadequate in deterring the union from future law breaking and community disruption.

“For this reason the Australian Parliament must put forward a strong and united vision for eradicating all forms of unlawfulness in Australian workplaces.”

The Ensuring Integrity Bill was one of a number of key industrial relations issues highlighted for government review and consideration when AMMA welcomed the appointment of Minister O’Dwyer to new Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s ministry.

A fortnight ago, the Prime Minister also flagged a potential review of the registration of the CFMMEU (the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union), after an “obscene image” tweeted by Victorian CFMMEU boss John Setka on Father’s Day (Sunday 2 September).

For more information on the Ensuring Integrity Bill or any other workplace policy matters, contact [email protected].

Former FWC VP Graeme Watson joins IR Minister’s team

Further fueling speculation of a renewed appetite for workplace relations reform by the Australian Government, former Fair Work Commission (FWC) Vice President Graeme Watson has been appointed to advise Minister O’Dwyer on industrial relations.

In January 2017, Mr Watson left the FWC in controversial circumstances, with the contents of his resignation letter attracting significant national media attention.

The resignation letter, sent to then-Minister for Employment Michaelia Cash, outlined a number of concerns with Australia’s workplace relations legislation and the way it was being administered by the national tribunal.

The letter detailed an ‘insiders’ perspective of the failures and systematic problems within Australia’s Fair Work system.

AMMA Chief Executive Steve Knott joined the business community in welcoming Mr Watson to the advisory role and highlighted the letter as a strong reference for reform.

“Many of the issues outlined in his resignation letter would form a good starting point for review of Fair Work legislation and the Fair Work Commission, including taking steps to address why enterprise bargaining is failing Australian employers and employees,” he said.

Mr Knott said the appointment is another “great move” after Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s decisions to both put industrial relations back in a Senior Cabinet role “where it belongs” and assign the portfolio to a Minister who understands the issues.

“Graeme Watson is an experienced and highly credentialed employment lawyer and possesses a wealth of knowledge and expertise; something that was sadly lacking when IR, with wanton recklessness, was relegated to a Junior Minister role in the Turnbull Government,” he said.

“In the three weeks Ms O’Dwyer has been in the role she has consulted heavily, is developing an IR policy agenda and surrounding herself with expertise necessary to do the IR job and do it well,.”

Mr Watson previously worked for AMMA in the 1980’s, consulting to blue chip companies in the resources sector in the late 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s prior to his appointment as FWC Vice President by the Howard Government.

For more information on any of these matters, contact [email protected]