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Industrial reforms a major test for Labor

Media Release

"Key Industrial reforms introduced into Parliament today will be a major test for Labor's Leadership," Minister for Industrial Relations, Christian Porter, said today.

"Last Parliament Labor voted against much needed reforms giving the Federal Court the ability to more appropriately penalise misconduct by officers of registered organisations and improve the integrity and accountability of the organisations themselves," the Minister said.

"Since then, we have seen more appalling behaviour by rogue sections of the union movement and by officials within those unions who fail to take their duties and responsibilities seriously.

"The militant CFMMEU for instance has been penalised more than $16 million by the Courts for over 2,000 contraventions of the law in recent years. This repeated lawbreaking, particularly in our vital building and construction sector, hampers the delivery of goods and services and increases the cost of vital infrastructure projects like roads, schools and hospitals - a cost that's ultimately borne by taxpayers.

"We have heard the new Labor Leader, Anthony Albanese and others within his party, roundly condemn John Setka of the CFMMEU.  Now it is time for Mr Albanese and Labor to prove they're not all talk and back their words with action."

The Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment (Ensuring Integrity) Bill 2019 and the Fair Work Laws Amendment (Proper Use of Worker Benefits) Bill 2019 were introduced into the House of Representatives this morning.

"The Ensuring Integrity Bill implements recommendations from the Trade Union Royal Commission by giving more power and greater flexibility to the Federal Courts to de-register lawbreaking unions and take action against certain militant parts of unions and their officials," the Minister said.

"The Morrison Government makes no apologies for upholding the rule of law and cracking down on lawbreakers – particularly those who refuse to address longstanding and repeated lawbreaking behaviour.

"Registered organisations are there to look after their members' interests.  When that objective is lost it is important that our courts have the powers they need to impose appropriate sanctions.

"The Bill, if passed, would apply to all registered organisations.  We all know the poor behaviour of some within the union movement that has been featured in newspapers and on TV and radio over recent weeks. 

"The challenge for Mr Albanese is clear: If he's actually serious about wanting to get rid of rogue union thugs, he will ensure his party supports this Bill."

The Proper Use of Workers Benefits Bill also responds to key recommendations of the Trade Union Royal Commission and will ensure better financial governance and transparency of registered organisations and associated entities, including worker entitlement funds (WEFs)

The Bill, once passed, would amongst a range of reforms:

  • Ensure basic governance and reporting standards apply to WEFs and the hundreds of millions of dollars in redundancy pay, sick leave and other benefits money they hold on behalf of workers, and;
  • Prohibit coercing employers to pay into particular funds.  

The Minister said that in re-introducing these bills the Government has taken the opportunity to adopt several amendments suggested in the previous detailed committee process which more closely align these reforms with their corporate equivalents.