Scott Morrison has announced his government will not pursue its ‘Ensuring Integrity Bill’ through the Senate, and has confirmed that the Industrial Relations Minister will chair a group that will come up with the basics of its JobMaker package.
Speaking at the National Press Club, prime minister Morrison said that the move to scrap the bill is representative of his intention to completely overhaul the state of Australia’s industrial relations system.
Industrial Relations Minister and Attorney-General Christian Porter will chair the group. “Beginning immediately,” Morrison said, “Christian Porter will lead a new, time-bound, dedicated process bringing employers, industry groups, employee representatives and government to the table to chart a practical reform agenda.”
Key issues on that agenda are set to be ensuring employees are paid according to the law, as well as the organisation of enterprise agreements to kick-start the economy’s post-COVID recovery period.
“Membership of each group will include employer and union representatives, as well as individuals chosen based on their demonstrated experience and expertise, and that will include – especially – small businesses, rural and regional operators, multicultural communities, women and families.”
In reference to the announcement that the Coalition will not push the Ensuring Integrity Bill through the Senate, Morrison said that “it is a system that has, to date, retreated to tribalism, conflict and ideological posturing,” Morrison said. “No side of that debate has been immune from those maladies.”
The ‘Ensuring Integrity Bill’ was introduced to streamline the process of black-listing and deregistering union members and officials believed to be breaking the law. Last year, One Nation alongside Jacqui Lambie blocked the bill from passing the Senate, whereby Christian Porter introduced the bill yet again into the lower house of representatives. The ABC writes that the changes would have allowed for applications to be made to the Federal Court to deregister a union or union official if conduct was deemed inappropriate.”
“In good faith, we have decided the Government will not pursue a further vote in the Senate on its Ensuring Integrity Bill,” Morrison said, adding that “not posturing a further vote, though, I hasten to caution on this bill, does not reflect any change or lack of commitment to the principle that lawful behaviour of registered organisations should be strictly required on all work sites in Australia.”
Minister Porter will sit as chair on five separate working groups that will, between now and October, attempt to reach an agreement with employers, unions and legislators relating to industrial relations.
Prime Minister Morrison added that he remains optimistic as to how these working groups will collaborate, considering the recent cooperation amid the COVID-19 pandemic. “The extent of the damage wrought by COVID-19 on the Australian economy, and the enormity of the challenge we now face to get Australians back into jobs, means the policy priorities for recovery will be different to those in place before the crisis.”
“We now have a shared opportunity to fix systematic problems and to realise gains as a matter of urgency to get more people back into work,” Morrison added.
Pundits are likening the announcement to that of Bob Hawke’s agreement with unions in the 1980 when the Prices and Incomes Accord was created.
“We’ve booked the room, we’ve hired the hall, we’ve got the table ready… we need people to get together and sort this stuff out,” he said. “As I say, they’ve been caught in the grooves for too long, and grooves going in parallel lines and not coming together… That’s why I’m hoping this process will be achieved. I may succeed. It may fail. But I can assure you, we’re going to give it everything we can,” Morrison concluded.