Federal Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke has poured cold water on demands to hive off contentious elements of his industrial relations bill, insisting he wants to fuel wage growth before Christmas.
- Crossbenchers have voiced concerns about the legislation being rushed through parliament
- Mr Burke has taken aim at the threat of a business-backed campaign against the legislation
- A parliamentary inquiry must report back on the Secure Jobs, Better Pay Bill by November 17
Members of the crossbench have voiced concerns about the legislation being rushed through parliament, wanting changes to multi-employer bargaining to be handled in the new year.
One of the three votes in the upper house held by independent Senator David Pocock and the Jacqui Lambie Network will be crucial to the government’s fortunes.
In recent days, the businesses community has reiterated its fears that small businesses could be crippled by the changes.
Mr Burke has told the ABC’s Afternoon Briefing that multi-employer bargaining was one of the key ways to ensure wage growth in low-paid, feminised workplaces.
“People have been waiting for 10 years without their wages moving, and I don’t want to continue that delay,” he said.
“Let’s not pretend we don’t have a level of urgency here — if having wages at the moment in Australia running at 2.6 per cent, and inflation running at 7.3 per cent.
“If that doesn’t give us a sense of urgency, I don’t know what will.”
The legislation, known as the “Secure Jobs, Better Pay Bill”, was referred to a parliamentary inquiry last week, but the deadline for it to report back is November 17.
The final sitting day of parliament for the year is December 1.
Mr Burke said splitting parts of the bill was “not his starting point”.
“For the senators that are quite reasonably saying they want to make sure they can get across the detail, I want to provide whatever assistance we can in helping them get across the detail,” he said.
“But certainly I don’t want, for the families and the households that are saying our wages aren’t keeping up, I don’t want to be in a world where we’re waiting a day longer than we have to in getting wages moving in Australia.”
Mr Burke also took aim at the chief executive of the Australian Resources and Energy Employer Association, Steve Knott, for threatening a business-backed campaign against the legislation.
Mr Knott told The Australian newspaper there was “white hot anger” in the mining, oil and gas industries about the bill.
“Steve Knott doesn’t even represent BHP, far from representing the whole of the mining industry in Australia,” Mr Burke said.
“A $20 million campaign is not going to stop this government’s resolve in getting wages moving.
“If they think they can simply buy advertising space, and we will suddenly turn a blind eye to the households where wages are not keeping up with standards of living, then they just don’t understand what’s happening around every kitchen table in Australia.”