Previously Dropped IR Reform Is Back on the Table

By Rebecca Zhu
Rebecca Zhu
Rebecca Zhu
June 8, 2021 Updated: June 8, 2021

The Morrison government plans to bring industrial relation reforms, which had been decimated, back on the table for negotiation as the next federal election approaches.

In March, the coalition government rushed to pass its controversial omnibus IR Bill and ended up stripping away every provision except changes surrounding casual workers and its definition.

In response, industry leaders welcomed the small change. They also urged the Prime Minister not to abandon the rest of the bill, which included changes to greenfield agreements, fast-tracking enterprise bargaining, and granting employers more rights to change employee conditions.

Industrial Relations Minister Michaelia Cash has confirmed that the government plans to repursue changes to greenfield agreements, which are workplace agreements for large scale construction projects. The plan is to double the length so that parties, such as builders, would not need to renegotiate new agreements in the middle of projects.

“We [the coalition government] stand ready to provide the mining industry with greater investment certainty, but Labor need to get out of the way of blocking this legislation,” Cash told The Australian Financial Review.

“There are currently 108 minerals projects across Australia in the pre-feasibility or feasibility stage. Together, these projects are worth $47 billion and entail approximately 30,000 construction jobs and 21,000 ongoing jobs.

“Anthony Albanese cannot say he supported the mining industry when Labor voted against legislation to reform greenfield agreements,” Cash said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison made mention of greenfield agreement reform recently in a dinner speech to the Minerals Council of Australia on June 3.

“We sought to have those greenfield arrangements legislated through the Parliament. We’d like to see them still legislated through the Parliament,” Morrison said. “They’re important for investment; they’re important for jobs; they’re important for the resources sector. We’re for it. We’ve always been for it. Our opponents in this place are against it.”

Industry leaders and several ministers, including the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, have said that the greenfield agreement reforms are “modest” and “sensible.”

Labor, the Greens, and the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) have strongly opposed the changes due to concerns that it would harm employees.

The ACTU were most concerned that the bill would make bargaining more difficult for workers, take rights off blue-collar workers on big projects, weaken wage theft punishments, and more. They called it a success when the government scrapped most of the provisions from the omnibus bill in March.

Rebecca Zhu
Rebecca Zhu