This is to provide you with an update on the state of play with the Albanese government’s Loophole (industrial relations) Bill.
Last week we provided you the link to my video evidence (on 10 November) before the Senate Committee looking at the Bill. It’s not quite riveting, Oscar-winning viewing, but the interchange between myself and ex-Transport Workers’ Union career official, now Senator, Glenn Sterle could have put us both in the running for an Oscar nomination perhaps? Um!
But back to reality! To summarise:
- The day before I gave evidence, independent Senators Jacqui Lambie and David Pocock moved motions in the Senate (on 9 November) to extract the OHS items from the massive Bill. These covered redundancy issues, anti-discrimination, asbestos safety and first responders coverage. (We support these and have said so.) The amendments were supported by the Libs/Nats and other independent Senators and passed.
- Last week (13 November) those amendments went to the House of Representatives with the government voting against them. That is, the Albanese government blocked the implementation of these vital OHS protections. The outcome is a stalemate at this stage. The government insists on passing the entire Bill as a block and has been accused of using the OHS issues to leverage the passing of the government’s aggressive industrial relations agenda. This includes the self-employed, small business destruction parts that we strongly oppose.
- Parliament isn’t sitting this week but returns the week after (from 27 November) for two weeks before Christmas. I’ll be back in Canberra ‘walking the halls’, talking with parliamentarians and their advisory staff.
- The Senate Committee has finished its hearings and will now prepare its report to be presented on 1 February 2024. Normally the government controls the numbers on committees and a majority report favouring the Bill could be expected, with a minority report making criticism. But that’s speculation on our part.
- Parliament resumes on 6 February with five sitting weeks from then until May. It’s impossible to tell what will happen, but if the stalemate continues (that is, the independent Senators wanting the amendments and the government refusing to pass them) the Bill could drag on well into next year. Again, that’s speculation.
However, there’s a lot of work for us to do. Following my Senate Committee appearance, we’ve received a request from the Committee secretariat asking for responses to follow-up questions from Senator Pocock. These are:
- You warn that this Bill will damage competition and result in a concentration of power in the hands of big business. Can you explain your concern for the fate of small business and competition in Australia in relation to this Bill?
- Does this Bill impose any risks on the viability and autonomy of relatively well-paid independent contractors?
The reply is due by 27 November. What’s great is that what we are saying is being taken seriously. But we need to demonstrate and seek to prove our case. And isn’t that exactly what a parliamentary democracy is supposed to be about?
We’ll keep you informed.