Hanson demands changes for workplace law reforms

 

Pauline Hanson is threatening to torpedo controversial workplace law reforms unless the Morrison Government drops its plan to water down a key safety net for workers entitlements.

The One Nation leader last night delivered an ultimatum to the Attorney-General Christian Porter, warning her party would refuse to even negotiate unless the government scrapped plans for a two-year suspension of the "better off overall test" (BOOT).

The Courier-Mail can reveal that Senator Hanson wrote to Mr Porter "strongly encouraging" the government to drop that aspect from the bill "to continue good faith negotiations and consideration of the Bill by One Nation Senators".

Senator Pauline Hanson has delivered an ultimatum urging the government to drop a key part of its workplace reforms if it wants to continue negotiations. Picture: Matt Taylor
Senator Pauline Hanson has delivered an ultimatum urging the government to drop a key part of its workplace reforms if it wants to continue negotiations. Picture: Matt Taylor

"While Senator (Malcolm) Roberts and I are available for an open discussion relating to industrial relations reform, it makes the task difficult if the government maintains its plans to suspend the Better Off Overall Test for a further two years," Senator Hanson wrote.

She said the current law undermined the BOOT which protected work from "a small number of deceitful employers".

Senator Hanson's demands comes as Brisbane Catholic Justice and Peace Commission - a body appointed by the Archbishop - has urged the government to drop the same provision, claiming the long-term impacts for vulnerable workers would be "locking them into poverty".

The Morrison Government is seeking to pass a raft of workplace law changes, with the most contentious a two-year pause for the "better off over all test" (BOOT) for new enterprise bargaining agreements for businesses that can prove they have been badly impacted by the pandemic, which it says will help struggling businesses stay afloat and keep more people in jobs.

A majority of workers have to vote for an agreement proposed that does not meet the test, while the Fair Work Commission must the rule it is in the public interest.

Mr Porter has consistently indicated the government was willing to negotiate with the Senate on a range of measures in order to get the changes, which also include a definition for a casual employee and tougher penalties for employers who underpay workers, through the Parliament.

 

 

But Mr Porter said the laws were based on an existing provision within the Fair Work Act, drafted by Labor, which allowed non-BOOT compliant agreements in exceptional circumstances.

"All the Government has proposed is that the impact of COVID-19 should be recognised as an exceptional circumstance to enable struggling employers to develop survival plans with their employees to help save both the business and jobs," he said.

"The nominal expiry period of two years mirrors the existing requirements already in place under Labor's laws.

Attorney-General Christian Porter says the new industrial laws will help businesses and jobs survive. Picture: Sean Davey
Attorney-General Christian Porter says the new industrial laws will help businesses and jobs survive. Picture: Sean Davey

"And just like Labor's laws, employees will be able to apply to the FWC to have an agreement terminated at any time after the nominal expiry date."

Meanwhile, the Brisbane Catholic Justice and Peace Commission, in a statement to the Senate inquiry looking into the proposed industrial relations laws, called for plans to suspend the BOOT to be dropped.

"We are concerned that, if these laws are passed, vulnerable workers and their families will still be experiencing reduced income and working conditions in 2030 and beyond, locking them into poverty," the commission stated.

 

 

It also accused the government of rushing the public consultation of the bill over the Christmas-New Year period.

"This approach suggests there are elements to the Bill that would not be publicly palatable and there is a desire to have the laws passed before people become aware of the implications for them, their families and other workers," the commission stated.

 

 

Originally published as Hanson demands changes for workplace law reforms



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