‘No’ to Fielding compromise, IR laws head for defeat

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‘No’ to Fielding compromise, IR laws head for defeat

The Federal Government’s Fair Work Bill seemed headed for defeat in the Senate today after the Government rejected a compromise from independent Senator Steve Fielding.

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The Federal Government’s Fair Work Bill seemed headed for defeat in the Senate today after the Government rejected a compromise from independent Senator Steve Fielding.
 
Last night, with the support of the Coalition, Fielding successfully moved an amendment that would change the cut-off point for the unfair dismissal exemption for small business from fewer than 15 employees to 20 or fewer full-time equivalent employees.
 
Send it back to Senate
 
This was flatly rejected by the Government, which said it has a mandate for the legislation and would restore the Bill to its original wording in the House of Representatives today and send it back to the Senate.
 
A second rejection would see the Bill fail and become the trigger for a double dissolution if the Senate again fails to pass the legislation after three months has elapsed.
 
Fielding ‘blinked’
 
Senator Fielding ‘blinked’ this morning after both the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, and the Deputy Prime Minister and IR Minister Julia Gillard, said his amendments were ‘unacceptable’.
 
Fielding then offered to reduce the cut-off point to 15 full-time equivalent employees.
 
‘Family First is willing to agree to 15 full-time workers under the definition of small business to allow the Rudd government's Fair Work Bill to go through,’ he said in a statement.
 
Will work with govt
 
‘Family First is working with the government to make changes to this Bill to see it passed.'
 
‘So we are prepared to move from 20 to 15 full-time workers if the government is willing to accept that this should be on the basis of full-time equivalent not head count.'
 
‘This is an important development as we work together to get this legislation through the Senate.'
 
Wants WorkChoices gone
 
‘We are so determined to see WorkChoices gone that we are prepared to reach this compromise.'
 
‘Family First encourages Senator Xenophon and the government to accept this offer and allow this important legislation to go through.’
 
Following this attempt at a compromise, Gillard met with Fielding to discuss the issue.
 
Talks ‘constructive’: Gillard
 
After the meeting, Gillard said the talks had been ‘constructive’ and she would now meet with the other independent Senator Nick Xenophon.
 
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Rudd had rejected Fielding’s olive branch.
 
‘If we were to accept this amendment it would mean throwing half a million workers out there to the wolves without any form of protection in terms of unfair dismissal in the time of a global recession,’ he said.
 
‘It's like the Liberals and Nationals have WorkChoices in their DNA.'
 
‘We’ll stick to our guns’: PM
 
‘This is a big dividing line between us and that's why we'll be sticking to our guns in the Parliament in Canberra today.’
 
Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull has dismissed the criticism.
 
‘I said in November that we would move amendments to improve the operational efficiency of the Bill and that is what we're doing,’ he told Sky News.
 
‘He has got 99.98% of what he wants but because he hasn't got 100% he's going to throw all the cards up in the air and say I won't have anything.’
 
The House of Representatives is expected to sit early this afternoon to vote on the amendment.
 
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