The Federal Government’s industrial relations bill will pass thanks to a deal struck with ACT independent senator David Pocock, who secured agreement for a number of amendments.
In particular, Senator Pocock negotiated greater safeguards for small and medium businesses, and an advisory committee to regularly review the adequacy of welfare payments.
“This is now a substantially different bill to the one introduced in the House of Representatives a month ago. It is better for business, better for workers and makes sure the most vulnerable in our community are no longer left behind,” Senator Pocock said.
“I have worked with the Government to push them as far as they would go, and then a step further to ensure they addressed key concerns raised with me. This legislation introduces significant reforms to Australia’s industrial relations system that will benefit women and low paid workers in particular.
“There are now additional safeguards in place for business, especially small businesses, and some important new powers to better protect the low paid and those reliant on government support.”
Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke revealed on Sunday that the Government had struck a deal with Senator Pocock that would ensure its Secure Jobs, Better Pay industrial relations reform bill passes in the Senate with amendments.
“There are amendments which improve it in various ways, but the bottom line is there will be a pathway now for wages to get moving again in Australia,” Mr Burke said.
“It will be a deliberate design feature of how we manage things.”
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese described the development as a “huge day for working people” and said the crossbench had made the right decision in supporting the bill.
“We went to an election saying that we wanted to get wages moving again. We said the low wages that we’d seen over the previous decade wasn’t a result of bad luck, it was bad policy … ” the Prime Minister said.
“This is a sensible proposition and Labor has been prepared to sit down with business, with unions, with the crossbench, with civil society, to work through the legislation to ensure that any improvements that can be offered have been taken up. That’s the way that we intend to deal with legislation as a principle going forward, and I thank in particular Senator Pocock for his constructive engagement with the Government.”
The bill also won backing from the Greens in a separate deal, who negotiated for improvements to the better-off-overall test and an enforceable right to request unpaid parental leave.
Together, the crossbench deals mean the legislation will pass before parliament rises for the year this week.
Senator Pocock described his amendments as a “game-changer for people living below the poverty line” with the Government to receive independent expert advice before each budget to determine necessary changes to help the most vulnerable.
“I went into this seeking to get the best policy outcome, balancing the urgent need for workers to get a pay rise, with legislation that will work in practice by delivering pay rises for those that need it while not placing unreasonable burdens on small businesses,” he said.
“I believe we have achieved the right balance, significantly improving the legislation with the added commitment that will help stop governments leaving our most vulnerable behind.”