Coalition Government backflips on anti-wage theft laws in “shameful and spiteful” move

By Bella Fitzpatrick

The Morrison Government’s IR Bill has finally limped over the line during yesterday amid senate chaos. Thanks to the efforts of the Unions, Labor, The Greens, and Senators Jacqui Lambie and Rex Patrick, only a husk of the original legislation made it through.

Much of the chaos can be traced back to the Minister responsible for Industrial Relations – Christian Porter – being on leave until March 31st following the revelation that he is the Minister at the centre of a rape allegation dating back to 1988. This left acting Industrial Relations Minister Michaelia Cash to attempt to keep the Bill together.

The dismantling of this Bill has been long-fought and hard-won by Unions and workers around the country, and for the most part it has been successful.

The government was clearly scrambling all morning to hold on to as much of the Bill as they could. The rapid disintegration of the legislation seemed to take many in the Coalition by surprise. Senator Ben Small even stepped up at one point to speak on the Bill. Little did he know, his own Government had already scrapped the parts of the Bill he was talking about.

The only parts of the original Bill that passed were changes designed to attack the rights of casual workers. These included a change to the definition of casual work and leaves those workers unable to enforce their rights to permanency – the opposite of what the government said it would do.

However in what can only be seen as a dummy spit by the government, the only part of the agreement that had been successfully negotiated between themselves, business and unions was withdrawn at the final hour. These were the laws aimed at criminalising wage theft.

It is a dog move by the government to abandon these laws, just as they were ready to pass through the senate and benefit all workers. The Morrison Government has walked away from tougher penalties for the dodgy businesses stealing wages, and they have walked away from the Australian people.

ACTU Secretary Sally McManus has called the behaviour a “shameful and vindictive reaction to not getting widespread support for other changes that would reduce workers’ rights.”

CFMEU C&G National Secretary Dave Noonan has called the government’s use of the pandemic to green light wage theft and casualization “a shameful attack on working people.”

The crossbench senators who haven’t stood with Australian workers in preventing these Bills from passing “have effectively greenlighted the Morrison Government’s agenda on wage theft and casualization.”

CFMEU C&G National Secretary Dave Noonan

Labor’s shadow IR minister, Tony Burke, said the bill lay in “shambles.”

“Measure after measure here ends up failing the simple test we’ve put forward, which is it had to deliver secure jobs with decent pay”.

CFMEU WA State Secretary Mick Buchan has labelled the government’s backflip on tougher wage theft laws “spiteful and shameful.”

“The Morrison Government has once again proved they do not care about the pain inflicted on Australian workers by casualisation and wage theft. The only care about helping their big business buddies take more and more out of the back pocket of working Aussies.”

CFMEU WA State Secretary Mick Buchan

As Dave Noonan puts it “Australian workers will not forget who stood up for them in the face of the Morrison Government’s cynical attack on their wages and conditions – and who didn’t.”