The bill, which would make it easier to deregister law-breaking unions and disqualify officials, will not go to a Senate vote until next year.
Senator Hanson was expected to vote with the government in the Senate last week but cited her displeasure at the government’s handling of the Westpac banking scandal as a reason for her decision to block the bill. She also took issue with the fact the legislation would lower the threshold required to put a union into administration: from ceasing to “function effectively” to breaching workplace laws “on multiple occasions”.
Senator Lambie has signalled she is open to reconsidering her support for the bill if the government agrees to changes she says will ensure it can be used to remove controversial Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMMEU) Victorian secretary John Setka without hurting ordinary union members.
She told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age on Tuesday: “If the government thinks my previously ‘unworkable’ amendments are now workable – well I think that’s great – I’m always happy to work constructively with the government.”
Centre Alliance senator Rex Patrick, who voted with the government in support of the bill last week, is also open to discussing further amendments.
Mr Porter said the bill aimed to ensure all registered organisations “obey the law”.
“We all know that it is the militant CFMMEU, particularly in Victoria and increasingly in Queensland, that has made an art form of law breaking,” he said. “Court-imposed fines of more than $16.5 million for the CFMMEU alone in recent years have had no impact on the union’s law-breaking business model.”
Labor leader Anthony Albanese on Tuesday said working people were under “real pressure” amid flat wages and rising living costs and the government’s response was to attack the organisations tasked with protecting their rights.
“Without trade unions, we wouldn’t have the working conditions that enable us to enjoy the Australian way of life that we all enjoy today,” Mr Albanese said.
Dana is health and industrial relations reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.