Peter Strong urges Senate crossbenchers to support IR reform and not let “politics get in the way”

Peter-Strong

COSBOA chief Peter Strong. Source: supplied.

Senate crossbenchers are being urged by key members of the small business community to support the federal government’s proposed industrial relations reforms. This follows reports that the senators are demanding changes to the omnibus bill in exchange for their support. 

The industrial relations omnibus bill is due to be voted on next week, following the completion of a Senate inquiry.

However, fresh doubt has now been cast over the federal government’s ability to pass its proposed industrial relations reforms through Parliament. One Nation senators and Centre Alliance’s Stirling Griff have said they will not support the bill in its current form, according to reports this week. 

Malcolm Roberts and Pauline Hanson will reportedly seek amendments on a number of parts of the omnibus bill — including those relating to casuals, greenfields agreements, workers’ protections in enterprise agreements, awards and compliance.

Meanwhile, Griff told The Australian he wants to see the government adopt recommendations made by the Law Council of Australia as a starting point for securing his support for the reforms. 

The Law Council put forward a number of recommendations in its submission to the Senate inquiry, including a provision to give casual workers access to arbitration by the Fair Work Commission if their employer denies a request to make their employment permanent. 

He has previously also joined independent senators Rex Patrick and Jacqui Lambie in seeking for the Senate to delay the vote on the bill until May.

This is amid calls for an independent inquiry into historical rape allegations against Attorney-General and Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter. Porter has strongly denied the allegations. He is currently on leave, with Small Business Minister Michaelia Cash acting in his place. 

Peter Strong, chief executive of the Council of Small Business Organisations Australia (COSBOA), says he understands the concerns coming from the crossbench, but he urges the senators to support the changes as a starting point for further reform. 

“One of the reasons we don’t have changes is because people keep looking for more or less,” Strong says. “This has been happening for decades, and reforms then get killed off.”

Strong says COSBOA members see the reforms in the bill as “incremental change” that can then be further built upon at a later stage. But that won’t be the case if “politics keeps getting in the way”. 

Both Labor and the Greens do not support the bill in its current form, which means the Coalition needs to secure the support of crossbenchers to pass the legislation.

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