Labor insists Scott Morrison’s new union-busting laws will do nothing to dislodge a controversial construction kingpin.
This week in parliament, the Prime Minister will bring on for debate laws making it easier to ban union officials who repeatedly break the law.
Labor is opposed to the legislation, which would also make it easier to de-register unions and block union mergers.
“This law reflects the Liberals’ hatred of unions more than anything else,” opposition frontbencher Michelle Rowland told Sky News on Sunday.
Looming large over the debate is rogue Victorian union boss John Setka, who has proven a thorn in Labor’s side.
The government argues his ongoing leadership of the CFMMEU highlights the pressing need for its tough new laws.
The prime minister on Saturday used the WA Liberal Party state conference to ramp up pressure on Labor to support the industrial relations bill, calling its opposition “shameful”.
“Maybe (Labor) will get rid of John Setka, who knows,” Mr Morrison said.
“But how can you not vote for a bill that would see John Setka booted out of the union movement as well?
“If he’s not good enough to be in the ALP, why is he good enough to be in a union?”
Ms Rowland said the laws would not be retrospective, so would do nothing to “get rid of” Mr Setka, while offering a blunt character assessment of the construction boss.
“I don’t think he belongs in the Labor Party and I don’t think he belongs in the union movement,” she said.
Mr Setka has been suspended from Labor after being accused of making disparaging remarks about anti-domestic violence campaigner Rosie Batty, and receiving a conviction for harassing his wife.
However, he continues to lead the construction division of the CFMMEU in Victoria.
Crossbenchers are key
The Morrison government will be able to use its majority to pass the bill in the lower house, but will need to convince four out of six crossbench senators to legislate the changes.
Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie’s support will be crucial to passing the laws.
Senator Lambie has signalled she might back the legislation if Mr Setka refuses to stand down.
Meanwhile, Labor is calling on the Prime Minister to take action against a Perth builder penalised for blocking union officials from entering a worksite.
Gerry Hanssen, a Liberal Party member, was fined more than $62,000 for breaking industrial laws.
Labor’s industrial relations spokesman Tony Burke said the Prime Minister should kick him out of the Liberal Party.
“Or is he too gutless to stand up to this character?” Mr Burke said.
“A judge said Mr Hanssen was driven by a blind hatred of unions. Well, so are Scott Morrison’s Liberals.”