Industry groups push for a swift vote on the IR omnibus bill

Senator Pauline Hanson. Source: AAP Image/Lukas Coch.

Leading industry groups are urging senate crossbenchers to support the IR omnibus bill to ensure parliament can pass the suite of reforms before the week’s end.

Chief executives from the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Australian Industry Group, the Business Council of Australia and seven peak associations across the retail, hospitality, construction, mining and farming industries all signed the joint statement, which was made public on Monday.

“There is no valid reason why the Bill should be delayed,” they said.

“A failure to vote on the bill will increase uncertainty and stifle business confidence at the worst possible time – just before the JobKeeper scheme ends and as businesses are making critically important decisions on whether to retain staff.”

The industry groups said the bill contains a series of “modest, practical and fair amendments” to the Fair Work Act, which are the result of an extensive consultation process over the past nine months.

For the reforms to pass, the government needs three of five crossbenchers to vote in favour of the bill.

The senators most likely to support the bill are South Australian Senator Stirling Griff and Queensland One Nation Senators Malcolm Roberts and Pauline Hanson. The remaining crossbenchers are Senator Jacquie Lambie and independent Senator Rex Patrick.

However, all five senators are seeking amendments to the reform package.

Under the government’s current bill, the Fair Work Act would be amended to include a statutory definition of casual employment and a requirement for employers to offer long-term casual workers a pathway to permanent full-time or part-time work.

It would also introduce part-time flexibility provisions across a range of modern awards to allow part-time employees to work overtime at the ordinary rate of pay.

The approval process of enterprise agreements would be streamlined and shortened to a 21-day timeframe.

The bill would also introduce a new criminal offence for dishonest and systematic cases of wage theft that includes fines of up to $1.1 million for individuals. Existing civil penalties for instances of underpayment would also be increased.

On Monday, Senator Patrick and Senator Lambie put forward a range of amendments they are seeking to the bill.

The amendments concern the majority of the bill’s contents and range from proposed changes to casual employment through to modern awards. The senators have identified the sections they will oppose and those they want removed.

As Labor and the Greens oppose the bill in its entirety, the government must gain support from at least three crossbench senators for the bill to pass.

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