IN a sign that the newly formed Australian Senate is open to positive workplace relations reform, the Coalition government secured its first workplace relations victory since the federal election with the passing of the Victorian Country Fire Authority (CFA) bill.
The legislation, which outlaws terms in the CFA enterprise agreement which could limit the use of volunteer firefighters, was widely considered a test case in how crossbench senators may approach workplace relations legislation.
Passing with 37 votes to 31 yesterday, the legislation was supported by the majority of crossbench Senators including the Nick Xenophon Team, One Nation, Family First, Liberal Democrats and Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party.
Speaking to the chamber, One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts indicated the party would also vote in favour of the Coalition’s two proposed bills to restore the Australian Building and Construction Commission and establish a Registered Organisations Commission, saying that like the CFA matter, the bills represented ‘an issue of freedom versus control’.
“Like so many issues that come before this parliament, the CFA bill is an issue of freedom versus control. We have to decide, today, if government can control communities or set them free,” Senator Roberts said.
“…Other pressing legislation soon to come before this chamber includes the bills for the Australian Building and Construction Commission and the Registered Organisation Commission. Those bills can also be classified as control versus freedom issues.”
Senator Roberts also foreshadowed that One Nation will become further involved in workplace relations reform.
“Our country’s IR system is broken, and as a party we will have a lot more to say about this in the coming term of parliament,” he said.
The Senate Education and Employment Legislation Committee is due to report on the ABCC bill this week (by 14 October 2016). As part of its extensive and ongoing consultations with members of parliament, AMMA provided a submission on the ABCC bill and separately on the Registered Organisations bill. Members will be kept informed on the progress of both bills.