Labor IR bill to hit Senate speed bump

The Coalition may seek to amend Labor’s first tranche of industrial relations reforms to provide for the retention of AWAs, a move that is almost certain to see the legislation blocked in the Senate.

Coalition deputy leader Julie Bishop says AWAs pre-date the WorkChoices laws that Labor promised during the election campaign to rip up, and they should be retained.

“What we see in this first tranche by Labor is an attempt to go back in history to remove a reform introduced in 1996,” Bishop told the ABC. “That is, the right of an employee and an employer to reach an agreement if that is what they want to do.”

Bishop said the view that Labor’s win in last year’s election conferred it with a mandate to pass the laws as “ridiculous”, despite Opposition leader Brendan Nelson having said that the Coalition would seek to hold Labor to its promises earlier this year.

The comments suggest Labor will have trouble passing its transitional industrial relations laws through the Senate, where the Coalition will continue to hold a majority in its own right until the end of June.

If Labor is to pass its laws through the Senate it will need the vote of Family First Senator Steven Fielding and at least two Coalition senators.

It is possible Labor could obtain two of those votes. National Party senator Barnaby Joyce has previously said he would vote for Labor’s IR bills if Labor won the election and Fielding has previously criticised aspects of the Howard era IR laws, although a spokeswoman says he won’t decide on Labor’s laws until he sees them.

But even if Joyce and Fielding were to vote in support of the laws it would still leave Labor one vote short of the majority it needs.

Labor Deputy Leader Julia Gillard says the Coalition’s position shows a lack of respect for Labor’s mandate and would be a “spit in the face” of voters who voted for the abolition of AWAs.


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