“It’s not binary, it’s not prescriptive on union officials. It sets the appropriate standards and it will ensure that those standards are maintained,” she said.
Ms Constable said it was very important that the ensuring integrity bill be passed into law. “It ensures that there is balance between workers and business and this sort of legislation ensures that the appropriate standards are set,” she said.
Denita Wawn, chief executive of Master Builders Australia, said her group also supported the concept of a penalty point system.
“We’re supportive in principle, we haven’t seen the detail, but from our perspective so long as the intent of the bill is retained we’re very much keen to see it through,” she said.
Centre Alliance Senator Rex Patrick said the penalty point system idea was one that people could understand. Accrued penalty points would disappear after 10 years “so it’s exactly like a licence system,” he said.
He said the bill started off with quite a draconian approach, and that his approach in seeking modifications was to ensure that good unions were not harmed by the legislation, while ensuring that union behaviour that had frustrated the courts was addressed.
“The original bill was a sledgehammer used to crack a nut, and the bill is now a nutcracker. It’s now got the right, appropriate response,” he said.
“You can’t have a situation where the courts are expressing concern that the penalties are not adjusting conduct, which is what the law is supposed to do,” he said.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese hit out at the bill on Sunday, describing it as an attack on unions and on the right of people to belong to them.
“This legislation can’t be fixed. This is an attack on the organisations that go into workplaces that deal with issues like wage theft, that ensure that there’s proper occupational health and safety and that people can go home after they work during the day,” he said.
Attorney-General and Industrial Relations minister Christian Porter said the drafting of amendments to reach a working compromise was well advanced.
“Discussions with members of the cross bench about the bill remain ongoing. But I am confident that a sensible compromise can be achieved that will ensure rogue unions with a history of lawbreaking and thuggery are confronted with appropriate disincentives,” he said.
Centre Alliance Senator Stirling Griff said an agreement was close but would depend on a discussion with Senator Patrick and lower house MP Rebekha Sharkie in the next day or two.
“We haven’t fully landed on everything at this point but we’re getting very close,” he said.
“We’re progressing very well and I imagine we’d arrive at a position we’re happy with in the next couple of days,” he said.
“I would expect that we’d be in a position to support the bill should they accept our proposals, and all the indications are that it is moving along well.”
Tasmanian independent Jacqui Lambie arrived in Canberra on Sunday ahead of the crucial vote but has not yet decided on the bill, although her stated position is to pass the changes as long as controversial union leader John Setka holds office at the CFMMEU.
Darren is the mining and agribusiness reporter for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.
David Crowe is chief political correspondent for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.