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Coalition persists with 'dead, buried and exhumed' union-busting bill

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The Morrison Government has reintroduced the defeated Ensuring Integrity Bill into Parliament (Image via @unionsaustralia / Twitter)

As expected, Attorney-General Christian Porter has reintroduced the freshly-defeated Ensuring Integrity Bill, doubling-down on the Government's anti-worker, anti-union agenda in the guise of industrial relations reform policy.

With the ink barely dry on the rejected vote towards the contentious piece of legislation – officially defeated in the Senate on November 28 – Porter has made good on his vow to revive it “in the form that it ended up in”. This includes 11 amendments brought forward by One Nation, after the Morrison Government’s consultations with crossbench Senator Rex Patrick of the Centre Alliance Party.

Porter has already agreed to honour in principle amendments from rogue Independent crossbench Senator Jacqui Lambie. Lambie presented her demands late in the negotiations process ahead of the most recent vote on the Bill, but these were stymied by the Government at the last minute.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) and Shadow Minister for Industrial Relations Tony Burke, were both quick to hit back at Porter’s motives.

ACTU President Michele O’Neil said:

“It says everything about the arrogance and desperation of this Government that it is reintroducing before Christmas, a Bill threatening the rights of millions of working Australians.”

O’Neil’s reaction continues the ACTU's approach of uniting its 38 affiliated unions and members to lobby key crossbench senators and bring about the 34-all Senate stalemate, which relegated the Bill to its previous defeat.

Said O’Neil:

“The union movement has been fighting this Bill since the current Prime Minister was a loyal member of Malcolm Turnbull’s Cabinet. We will not stop now, we will continue to fight this Bill and this Government until it is defeated.” 

Meanwhile, Burke – who labelled Porter’s actions to reintroduce the Bill as “dead, buried, and exhumed” – suggested the Morrison Government has much bigger plans:

This has always been a two-stage attack. First the Government is going after the organisations that represent, protect and fight for workers. Next they will come after workers’ pay and conditions directly.

 

This is clearly Morrison’s industrial relations agenda: smash the unions to pave the way for WorkChoices 2.0.

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott once declared predecessor John Howard’s infamous WorkChoices anti-worker, anti-union legislation as being “dead, buried, and cremated” under his leadership.

But “dead and buried” are words that those in the ALP and the union movement have never believed. If the EI Bill is a gateway to bringing back Howard’s WorkChoices, then both keep coming back to life like Frankenstein’s Monster.

Variations of the EI Bill have now been introduced to Parliament on two separate occasions. This has been marketed by the LNP as “industrial relations reform” but its intent is to have the power to deregister unions and ultimately defeat the union movement and workers' rights. Is the Coalition pinning its hopes on the old expression, “third time lucky”?

But even as Porter has introduced a new discussion paper geared towards enhancing his portfolio’s chances at general industrial relations reform, a tactical and strategic edge would appear to lie with the ACTU and Labor. Undoubtedly, there will be a fair amount of behind-closed-doors machinations to vie for crossbench support but this is not new legislation — far from it. It is another attempt at the ruling party staking its ages-old agendas on industrial relations and trying to sell it to the people. And many of those same people, who are workers and union members, are seeing their livelihoods and rights being threatened yet again.

And Labor and the ACTU will join forces yet again to strike it down. Or at least give it their best to do so. That alone is a very safe bet.

William Olson is a freelance journalist and hospitality professional. You can follow William on Twitter @DeadSexyWaiter.

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