One of the industrial relations bills used to trigger the July double-dissolution election has passed the Federal Parliament in a late-night sitting of the Senate.
The Government agreed to sweeping new federal whistleblower laws, to secure the votes of Nick Xenophon Team senators and Independent senator Derryn Hinch.
The move gave it the numbers, and it then suspended standing orders last night to extended debate for as long as it took to conclude the matter.
It passed around 2.15am.
The amendments from crossbenchers Senator Hinch and Senator Xenophon would protect whistleblowers in both the public and private sectors and provide for compensation.
“These amendments, if passed, will see Australia go from some of the worst whistleblower protection laws in the world to arguably the best,” Senator Xenophon said during the debate.
But Tasmanian senator Jacqui Lambie voted against the bill and was not impressed by the Government’s compromise.
“I would like to know why we all went to a double-D and you weren’t prepared to compromise, and there were crossbenchers that lost their job out of that, but now you’re prepared to compromise,” Senator Lambie said.
Crossbenchers accused of caving to the Government
Labor’s Doug Cameron called on Senator Xenophon to table the agreement he had made with the government over the bill.
“You’ve caved into the government,” Senator Cameron said.
“You haven’t delivered and you had an opportunity to actually make a big change and help all those poor people that were being ripped off, those whistleblowers in the Commonwealth Bank, the whistleblowers in the financial sector, the whistleblowers in corporate Australia.
“You let them down.”
But Senator Xenophon hit back, saying Senator Cameron was “wrangling” and “strangling” the truth.
“You can laugh and scoff and carry on, but the fact is this goes further than anything you and your party did in government,” he said.
The passing of the bill means union officials will be regulated in the same way as company directors.
But Employment Minister Michaelia Cash said it was not about “union busting”.
“What it is about though is about increasing transparency and accountability and stopping those unscrupulous individuals who would use members’ hard-earned funds for their own self-interest,” she said.
Nationals vote against the Government
The passing of the bill came after an unusual sight earlier in the night when two Nationals senators, Bridget McKenzie and John “Wacka” Williams, voted with crossbencher David Leyonhjelm in a bid to strike down a ban on importing an Adler lever-action shotgun.
The move was defeated, but not a single National voted for the Government’s position.
Three Nationals ministers stayed away rather than voting for the Government — Fiona Nash, Nigel Scullion and Matt Canavan.
The Federal Government has agreed to sweeping new federal whistleblower laws, to apply to the public and corporate sectors, in order to secure the passage of a key piece of industrial relations legislation.