Fair Work Bill through the Reps, now for the Senate battle

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Fair Work Bill through the Reps, now for the Senate battle

The Federal Government last night got its Fair Work Bill through the Lower House, but all the real trouble lies ahead when it reaches Senate debate after the Committee inquiring into the legislation reports in February.

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The Federal Government last night got its Fair Work Bill through the Lower House, but all the real trouble lies ahead when it reaches Senate debate after the Committee inquiring into the legislation reports in February.
 
Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull has signalled there will be significant amendments put up by the Coalition during Senate debate.
 
To get the legislation passed in a form that suits the government, it will need the support of the five Greens Senators, plus independents Nick Xeneophon and Steve Fielding.
 
The Greens have attacked the legislation as being ‘WorkChoices-lite’ but won’t back Opposition changes, while the views of the independents on the details of the legislation remain to be seen.
 
Opposition objections
 
During the House of Representatives debate on the legislation, Opposition IR spokesman Michael Keenan raised objections about matters such as right of entry, ‘pattern’ bargaining for low-paid workers, compulsory arbitration, transmission of business, and bargaining fees.
 
Although Turnbull has announced on a number of occasions that ‘WorkChoices is dead’ a significant number of senior Coalition figures still support individual agreements, including Deputy Leader Julie Bishop, Senator Nick Minchin, Tony Abbott and Alby Schultz.
 
The problem for the Opposition is that if they block the legislation in the Senate, workers will be stuck under the remnants of WorkChoices (minus new AWAs) all the way to the next election.
 
WorkChoices a factor again
 
Considering WorkChoices was a key factor in the Howard Government’s defeat, the Coalition would be facing a Government and union campaign that they are still the party of WorkChoices and would bring it back if they won office in 2010.
 
It is this factor that makes Opposition compromises likely, but Labor is also expected to change aspects of its legislation under pressure from employers. Meanwhile, unions will be vigilant in ensuring that the legislation is not seriously weakened.
 
Timetable
 
The current timetable is for the Fair Work laws to replace the Workplace Relations Act from 1 July next year, though the NES and modernised awards won't come into operation until 1 January 2010.
 
The Senate inquiry is due to report on 27 February, and the Government intends to introduce its transitional and consequential amendments Bill in March.
 
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