​Fair Work bills first up in new parliament

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​Fair Work bills first up in new parliament

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has reintroduced the government's Fair Work amendment bills into parliament, as promised during the federal election.

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Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull this morning reintroduced the government's Fair Work amendment bills into parliament, as promised during the federal election.

Emergency firefighters bill


First cab off the rank was the bill to take Victorian emergency services volunteers out of the reach of union enterprise agreements (see related story).

The Fair Work Amendment (Respect For Emergency Services Volunteers) Bill 2016 makes the following amendments:

It expands the definition of unlawful term (in relation to enterprise agreements) in the Fair Work Act to include an ‘objectionable emergency management term’ – this will prohibit terms in enterprise agreements that:
  • restrict or limit the ability of certain firefighting or SES bodies to engage, deploy, provide support or equipment to its volunteers, or manage its operations in relation to its volunteers, or
  • require a body to consult, or reach agreement with, any other person or body in relation to managing its volunteers, or
  • restrict or limit a body’s ability to recognise, value, respect or promote the contribution of its volunteers to the well-being and safety of the community, or
  • require or permit a body to act other than in accordance with a law of a state or territory that imposes a duty, power or function on the body that could affect its volunteers.
Any such terms in an existing agreement will be legally ineffective from the day the legislation commences.

The amendments also provide volunteer organisations with the right to make submissions to the Fair Work Commission about enterprise agreements covering certain emergencyservices bodies that could affect the volunteers that they represent.
 
The Bill and Explanatory Statement can be viewed here.

Return of the ABCC?


The Prime Minister also re-presented the Building and Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Bill 2013, which seeks to re-establish the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC).

The bill – the trigger for called the July election – is in the same form that was voted down twice during the previous parliament.

The Bills and Explanatory Statements can be viewed at:

Building and Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Bill 2013

Building and Construction Industry (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2013 

Another attempt to bring unions under laws similar to corporations


The third Fair Work bill introduced this morning is another bill that was repeatedly rejected in 2015, and a trigger for the double dissolution: the bill to create standards of governance for unions. 

The Prime Minister said in his second reading speech introducing the legislation that “current penalties do not fit the gravity of offences” and the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment Bill 2014 [No. 4] would include higher civil penalties and a range of criminal penalties for officials.

The Bill seeks to make the following amendments:
  • establish the Registered Organisations Commission as a “watchdog with enhanced powers to monitor and regulate registered organisations”
  • registered organisations will need to disclose remuneration paid to their top five officers in the head office and any branches
  • officers will be required to disclose their material personal interests to the committee of management
  • officers will not be able to make decisions on matters where they have a disclosed interest
  • criminal sanctions will apply to officers who do not obey the new commission's investigation powers. 
The Bill and Explanatory Statement can be viewed here.
 
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