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.

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