Prime Minister Scott Morrison has flagged an overhaul of Australia’s industrial relations system and announced the government will shelve the union-busting legislation that it has so far failed to get through Parliament.
Mr Morrison used a speech to the National Press Club to announce Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter would lead a new process bringing together unions, employer groups and businesses to try to change the current system, which he said was “not fit for purpose”.
“It is a system that has, to date, retreated to tribalism, conflict, and ideological posturing,” he said.
“No side of that debate has been immune from those maladies.”
The government’s most recent attempt to crack down on what it sees at union misconduct has been stuck in the Senate after failing to get crossbench support in 2019.
Mr Morrison confirmed the government would not seek to take the bill to a second vote, and that Mr Porter would chair five working groups between now and the October budget to try to reach a consensus with unions and employers on industrial relations.
The Prime Minister said he was heartened by the “constructive” approach unions and employers took during the height of the coronavirus pandemic and that the economic recovery presented an opportunity for major change.
“The extent of the damage wrought by COVID-19 on the Australian economy, and the enormity of the challenge we now face to get Australians back into jobs, means the policy priorities for recovery will be different to those in place before the crisis,” he said.
“We now have a shared opportunity to fix systemic problems and to realise gains as a matter of urgency to get more people back into work.”
Mr Morrison’s announcement drew comparisons with the historic Prices and Incomes Accord struck between former prime minister Bob Hawke and unions in the early 1980s.