Workplace laws set to pass parliament

Federal government's IR bill to pass this week

Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke insists new workplace laws will bring businesses back to the negotiating table quicker in order to boost stagnant wages.

The government’s industrial relations reforms will likely pass the Senate this week after Labor secured a deal with independent senator David Pocock.

Mr Burke said he knew negotiations would be challenging but the laws would pave the way for more wage rise negotiations between employers and staff.

“Getting rid of some of the red tape that we’ve got there will actually bring some of those businesses back to the table straight away,” he told the Nine Network on Monday.

“You will see some workers where the (wage rise) movement happens very quickly, there’ll be others where it’s a longer process, but importantly, the framework will finally be there.”

Under agreed changes to the legislation, the government will set up an independent body to review social support payments before every federal budget.

Small businesses with fewer than 20 employees will be excluded from single-interest multi-enterprise bargaining.

Businesses with fewer than 50 employees will have extra safeguards if they want to opt out of multi-employer bargaining, while the minimum bargaining period will also be increased from six to nine months.

Senator Pocock said he was happy with where the bill had landed following negotiations with the government.

“I’m not here to represent big business. I’m here to weigh it all up, and I think strike a balance between the two,” he told ABC TV.

“There’s something in this bill for everyone. There are protections for particularly smaller businesses … clearly we have to get wages moving and my hope is that this bill will start to do that.”

However, Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce warned the new laws would lead to more strikes.

“As enterprise agreements expire and the people are going to be shifting to these multi-party agreements … this incites further industrial action,” he told the Seven Network.

“Small businesses [are] having to fork out $14,000 as part of the process that this legislation brings in. That was never told to anybody before the election.”

But Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth has dismissed the claims as a scare campaign.

“This is really about making it easier. It is about getting wages moving,” she told Seven.

“These are sensible laws. It is disappointing the coalition has not negotiated and discussed and had a conversation about this.”

Business groups have hit out at the laws, with Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Andrew McKellar saying the laws would not lead to increased wages.

“[They] will only add cost and complexity to Australian businesses at a time when they are dealing with deteriorating conditions,” he said.

Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie also weighed in on Monday, telling Nine’s Today Show she feared the changes would give unions “unheralded power” and end with more strikes around the country.

“There is no choker chain on unions,” she said.

Senator Lambie was also sceptical about the plan to set up an independent body to review social support payments before every budget.

“When they (the government) say we will look at the rates of Jobseeker, it will come down to the recommendations and whether or not the government wants to pick up the recommendations,” she said.


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