WITH federal parliament sitting for the final day for the year on 1 December 2016 and not resuming until 7 February 2017, it is timely to review key pieces of workplace relations (WR) legislation that have recently passed through the parliament, those that are still before the parliament, and those expected to be tabled in early 2017.

Four pieces of workplace relations legislation passed through the federal parliament and the new Senate in recent months:

  • The Building & Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Act 2016 – legislation restoring the ABCC and extending its regulation to offshore construction and transport.
  • The Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment Act 2016 – legislation establishing a separate Registered Organisations Commission and new protections for ‘whistleblowers’.
  • The Fair Work Amendment (Respect for Emergency Services Volunteers) Act 2016 – legislation precluding enterprise agreement terms that impact on the capacity of emergency services bodies to properly manage their volunteers.
  • The Income Tax Rates Amendment (Working Holiday Maker Reform) Act 2016 (No 2) – legislation applying a lower tax rate to working holiday makers’ taxable income.

In the lead-up to the 2016 federal election, the government also flagged its intention to table the following legislation, which is now expected in early 2017:

  • A Protecting Vulnerable Workers Bill – seeking to increase penalties on employers who underpay workers and fail to keep proper employment records.
  • A Trade Union Governance and Corruption Bill – giving effect to the recommendations of the Royal Commission, including introducing a new ‘public interest test’ for mergers of registered organisations.

While AMMA is pleased to see the new Senate has shown itself open to passing key pieces of WR legislation, albeit with amendments, there is more to be done.

The serious problems the Fair Work Act is causing have been well-documented by AMMA since 2009, yet the amending legislation that has passed, and that which is due to be tabled next year, for the most part will not deliver meaningful changes to the Fair Work Act itself.

The government is also yet to respond to the recommendations of the Productivity Commission’s review of Australia’s workplace relations framework, most of which would be welcomed by industry.

AMMA has recently written to Employment Minister Michaelia Cash calling for the government to progress substantive workplace relations reforms and address dysfunction in the ranks of the Fair Work Commission (FWC). AMMA will maintain our advocacy for meaningful WR reforms in 2017 and welcomes member input.

Click here for a full summary of the status of all WR Bills before the current parliament.

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