Office reforms dealing with rocky Senate street

Big deal calls on the government to press ahead with controversial labor law reform despite a minister’s vacation hindering Crossbench negotiations.

Labor Relations Minister Christian Porter will not be in Parliament this week. This is the last session of the Senate until the May budget.

A nation’s leader, Pauline Hanson, and fellow party member Malcolm Roberts will meet with Porter’s temporary substitute senator, Michaelia Cash, on Monday.

However, the other three small parties and independent senators have signaled that they are unlikely to negotiate the legislation without Mr Porter.

The government needs three of the five Crossbench Senators to support the Omnibus Labor Relations Act, which will be debated in the House of Lords on Tuesday.

A powerful coalition of employers has urged the coalition government to pass the law this week, arguing that there is no valid reason for the delay.

The joint declaration is signed by the heads of the Australian Chamber of Commerce, the Australian Industry Group, the Australian Mines and Metals Association and the Business Council of Australia.

The Australian Retailers Association, the Master Builders Association, the Restaurant & Catering Industry Association, and the Nationals Farmers’ Federation are also represented.

“Failure to vote on the bill will add uncertainty and stifle company trust at the worst possible time – right before the JobKeeper program ends and companies make important decisions about whether to keep employees,” the group says.

Crossbench trio Rex Patrick, Stirling Griff and Jacqui Lambie have raised concerns about parts of the bill related to casual work.

Government Senate Chairman Simon Birmingham said negotiations with Crossbench would address any issues that Senators have raised.

But he said the talks would not be necessary if Labor supported the legislation.

“This is a bill that increases penalties related to wage theft. It is a bill that deals with bogus contracts,” said Senator Birmingham.

“It’s a bill that provides more security in terms of casual work and greater opportunities in terms of part-time employment.”

After that week, the Senate will only sit three days into the budget week before returning in mid-June.

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