Libs rebuff Labor IR mandate

There are growing signs that the Liberal Party will be prepared to block Labor’s industrial relations reforms after two senior Liberals rejected the view that Labor has a mandate to pass the laws.

Senate opposition leader Nick Minchin and senior Queensland Liberal Senator George Brandis yesterday both rebuffed any suggestion that the election result meant they had a moral obligation to pass Labor’s key policy promises.

“We don’t take kindly to Labor insisting they have a mandate and expecting us therefore to vote for their bills willy-nillly,” Minchin told The Australian.

Brandis and several other Liberal senators have backed Minchin, Brandis telling the paper that: “It’s difficult to say that each particular piece of legislation is subject to a mandate.”

The comments by Minchin and Brandis suggest that the introduction of Labor’s new IR laws could be delayed beyond what is already an extended timetable. In a briefing to clients yesterday law firm Freehills, which played a key role in drafting the WorkChoices legislation, argues it could be as late as 2010 before Labor’s main IR reforms on unfair dismissal and AWAs become law.

There is another possible outcome of any refusal by the Liberals to back Labor’s laws that will be less welcome to business, however. While the final make-up of the new Senate is still uncertain, it is likely that Labor will be able to form a majority with the support of the Greens and South Australian independent Nick Xenophon after 1 July.

If the Coalition refuses to play ball, that could give the Greens – who have promised a more extensive roll back of WorkChoices than Labor – the upper hand in any negotiations on the passage of new IR laws.

For an insight into what the rules on dismissing employees could look like under a new IR regime, don’t miss SmartCompany’s story on How will the fair dismissal code work? .

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