Coalition plan to scrutinise 'militant unions' in first industrial relations review in over a decade

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Attorney-General Christian Porter are finalising a Religious Discrimination Bill. Source: AAP

The government has announced an overhaul of Australia’s industrial relations system, aiming to evaluate the role of unions in workplaces.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has told business leaders in Western Australia that the government will take a "fresh look" at industrial relations law and red-tape, with Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter to head the review that focuses on workplace unions.

“Any changes in this area must be evidence-based, protect the rights and entitlements of workers and have clear gains for the economy and for working Australians,” Mr Morrison said.

“One particular area where it’s essential to get regulation right is to protect investment from the impact of militant unions, that would have been given free reign under a Labor Government if elected six weeks ago.”


Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Perth
Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Perth.

It is the first time the Coalition has reviewed Industrial Relations since John Howard's 'Work Choices’ over a decade ago.

Citing the current controversy with CFMMEU Victorian secretary, Mr Morrison described John Setka as “the tip of the iceberg when it comes to militant unionism in this country.”

“Under our Government, the days lost to industrial disputes has fallen by 40 per cent compared to what it was under the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government,” Mr Morrison said.

“Unions and militant unions, run modern Labor.”


CFMEU Secretary John Setka and his wife Emma Walters speak to the media during a press conference.
CFMEU Secretary John Setka and his wife Emma Walters speak to the media during a press conference.

Speaking on ABC radio, Labor frontbencher Joel Fitzgibbon says an investigation into the trade union movement is “a mistake particularly at a time when wages are flat-lining.”

 “The government needs to start showing some initiative and start talking about what it’s going to do about productivity and the economy.”

Businesses respond

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry says businesses have been crying out for an industrial relations system that isn't weighed down by unnecessary processes and frustrating legalities.

"We cannot afford for Australia's workplace relations framework to remain a barrier to improved competitiveness and productivity," chief executive James Pearson said.

But the Australian Council of Trade Unions says a proposed Ensuring Integrity Bill - which will make it easier to deregister unions and ban officials over misconduct - will be a burden on the already highly-regulated union movement.

"Every single worker benefits from the work of unions, attacking unions is another way of attacking every worker's rights," ACTU president Michele O'Neil said.

The bill was introduced to parliament in 2017 but suffered a blow last year when the coalition couldn't rally enough support for it among the Senate crossbench.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said the best way to boost productivity would be to build some of the government's own planned infrastructure projects earlier.

Labor also wants the government to bring forward the second stage of its tax cut plan, saying it will get money into the hands of workers when the economy needs it, but still opposes the third stage of the plan.

Reserve Bank Governor Philip Lowe, meanwhile, told an event at Canberra's Australian National University that the effectiveness of monetary policy is weakening around the world.

That means governments need to pull their weight in keeping the economy humming, he suggested.

"Governments here and around the world should have their top drawers full with ideas," Dr Lowe said.

- with AAP

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