Morrison bid to fast track union bill
The Morrison government will this week seek Senate support to legislate proposals to disqualify law-breaking union officials, backed by employers who accused some union members of conduct “akin to fascism”.
The decision to bring on the Ensuring Integrity Bill for debate, most likely on Wednesday, reflects Scott Morrison’s attempts to make the construction union’s record a key component of his political attack and to link the conduct to Bill Shorten.
The ACTU is urging the Senate crossbench to vote down the “’dangerous” bill, which lowers the threshold for courts to deregister a union and permits courts to disqualify union officials if they commit two civil law breaches.
Industrial Relations Minister
Currently some unions, the biggest such as the TWU and the CFMEU, will threaten, bully and stand over law-abiding small business people who are just doing their job. Some union members will unilaterally impose black bans on businesses whose owner has made some statement with which the particular union or individual does not agree ... This behaviour is akin to fascism and must be confronted.
Extract of the letter from COSBOA to Kelly O’Dwyer
Kelly O’Dwyer told The Australian the proposed laws were critical to protecting small businesses and workers. Passing the bill was the “best thing parliament can do right now to combat lawless behaviour in militant unions”.
“Bill Shorten needs to display leadership by cutting his ties with the militant CFMEU and standing up for workers and small business by supporting the bill,’’ Ms O’Dwyer said.
The Australian has confirmed that Ms O’Dwyer has hired former Fair Work commissioner Graeme Watson as a senior industrial relations adviser. The appointment, revealed by The Weekend Australian, is further evidence the Coalition intends to take an aggressive approach to industrial relations.
Mr Watson resigned from the commission last year.
In a letter to Ms O’Dwyer on Friday, Council of Small Business Organisations Australia chief executive Peter Strong backed the bill, attacking unions and their members.
He said some unions “threaten, bully and stand over lawabiding small business people who are just doing their job”.
“Some union members will unilaterally impose black bans on businesses whose owner has made some statement with which the particular union or individual does not agree,” Mr Strong wrote.
“It does not matter that the statement is correct or that we live in a society with freedom of speech. This behaviour is akin to fascism and must be confronted.”
ACTU president Michele O’Neil said the comments by Mr Strong were wrong and offensive. “Fascist regimes pursued a program of political violence against Jews, Roma people, Catholics, GBLT people and trade unionists,’’ she said. “To liken working people’s democratically elected representatives to such regimes shows ignorance of history and extremely poor judgment.”
The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Master Builders Australia have also written to Ms O’Dwyer declaring support for the bill.
ACCI chief executive James Pearson said workers were entitled to expect probity and integrity from their representatives and parliament should act to ensure this. “Some will represent this bill as union-bashing,’’ he said.
“It is not. Its measures are fair and balanced, applying to unions and employers. We also acknowledge that the vast majority of union officials represent their members without breaking the law and have absolutely nothing to fear from these changes.’’
Master Builders chief executive Denita Wawn said despite reestablishment of the Australian Building and Construction Commission, “illegal CFMEU conduct shows no sign of stopping”.
In March, the Turnbull government decided not to proceed with the bill after failing to secure support from the Senate crossbench. The new Prime Minister, who has returned industrial relations to cabinet, has made the bill one of his legislative priorities. Ms O’Dwyer has said the government is prepared to amend the legislation to get crossbench support.
Opposition workplace relations spokesman Brendan O’Connor hit out at the government for giving priority to a bill that attacks workers’ representatives.
“If the minister spent as much time concerned about stagnant wages, widespread worker exploitation and declining conditions of employment as she spends obsessing about smashing unions, perhaps Australian workers wouldn’t be suffering so much under this government’s watch,’’ he said.