Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s government is willing to negotiate with crossbench senators to get its building industry watchdog reinstated but only if at least six of them form a bloc.
Family First Senator Bob Day says the Prime Minister called him on Easter Monday to discuss efforts to restore the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC).
“The Prime Minister clearly wants this bill to pass,” he said in a statement on Tuesday.
The Senator told Mr Turnbull there was no reason why an agreement couldn’t be reached if the government committed to addressing some of the crossbench’s concerns about corruption in other sectors, not just the construction industry.
“After speaking with the PM, I am confident an agreement could be reached if the government agreed to look at sector-specific corruption measures,” Mr Day said.
He thought the government should establish anti-corruption measures that were tailored to each sector, but thought ABCC was “the perfect place to start” cleaning up corruption.
Employment Minister Michaelia Cash spoke to Sky News on Tuesday morning and said the government had been negotiating this legislation all year.
Ms Cash said any proposed amendments needed to have the backing of at least six crossbenchers – the number needed to get the legislation passed.
“The reality is if you don’t have that magic number six, they are not going to get through the Senate,” she said.
“When you negotiate with individuals, you might secure one vote and then you have to go and have that conversation another seven times.
“ The government won’t consider amendments that compromise the integrity of the legislation.
“If the crossbench are serious about passing this legislation then they need to come to us.
“It’s good legislation … we would like to see it passed through the Senate.”
Opposition workplace spokesman Brendan O’Connor accused the federal government of outsourcing its negotiations to Mr Day.
He also questioned whether Mr Day was an appropriate mediator, given he typically voted with the government.
“It really says the government doesn’t know which way to go,” Mr O’Connor said.
“The government is confused and is sending confusing messages to the Australian people.”
Last week Governor-General Peter Cosgrove, on the Prime Minister’s advice, recalled both houses of parliament for a three-week sitting from April 18.
Mr Turnbull wanted the Senate to use the sitting – which would include the federal budget, brought forward a week to May 3 – to pass bills reinstating the ABCC and imposing higher penalties for union corruption.
If the bills, which have previously been rejected, are not passed, a double-dissolution election will be held on July 2, the first since 1987.
– with AAP