Prospect for passage of ABCC Bill in Federal Parliament

On the return of the new Parliament this week, it remains unclear as to whether there will be sufficient support to pass the two Bills that prompted the Government to call the double dissolution federal election: the ABCC Bill and the Registered Organisations Bill.

Ai Group is a determined supporter of these important pieces of legislation, and we have written to all Crossbench Senators to urge them to support the two Bills.

There appears to be reasonable prospects for the passage of the Bills, given that the Nick Xenophon Team, One Nation, the Liberal Democrats, Family First and the Justice Party have not ruled out supporting them.

The two Bills have been introduced into Parliament and in the first instance the two Bills will be voted upon in the normal way in the House of Representatives and the Senate. If the Bills are opposed, the Government has the option of a joint sitting of Parliament to vote upon the Bills, because these Bills were triggers for the recent double dissolution federal election.

Labor and the Greens are opposed to the Bills. Therefore, when they are voted upon in the Senate, the Government will need the support of nine of the following 11 Crossbench Senators: 4 One Nation, 3 Nick Xenophon Team, Senator Day (Family First), Senator Leyonhjelm (Liberal Democrats), Senator Lambie and Senator Hinch (Justice Party).

At this stage, Senator Lambie is the only Senator who has announced her intention to oppose the ABCC Bill. Most of the Crossbench Senators are still considering their positions. To date, there has been less focus on the Registered Organisations Bill than the ABCC Bill.

If the Bills are ultimately voted upon in a joint sitting, it will similarly be difficult to predict the outcome. The Government needs 114 votes of the 226 votes. Labor, the Greens, Senator Lambie, Andrew Wilkie and Bob Katter have expressed opposition to the ABCC Bill. The Government has 76 Lower House Members and 30 Senators, i.e. 106 in total. Therefore, in order for the ABCC Bill to pass, the Government needs to achieve eight votes from among the following Parliamentarians: 4 Nick Xenophon Team, 4 One Nation, Cathy McGowan, Senator Day, Senator Leyonhjelm and Senator Hinch.

The Building and Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Bill 2013 (ABCC Bill) deals with the following key issues:

  • The re-establishment of the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) with its former powers;
  • Higher penalties for unlawful industrial action (roughly three times the level that applies in other industries);
  • The making of a Building Code which all building industry participants would be required to comply with; and
  • Penalties for unlawful picketing.

The Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment Bill (Registered Organisations Bill) would amend the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act 2009 to:

  • establish a Registered Organisations Commission;
  • clarify and expand the duties of union officers;
  • increase penalties and disclosure obligations; and
  • provide for the disqualification of union officers who breach their duties.


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Ai Group's Head of National Workplace Relations Policy, Stephen Smith is responsible for workplace relations policy development and advocacy. He regularly represents industry’s views to governments and opposition parties, and in numerous inquiries and major cases. He is Special Counsel for, and Chairman of the Board of, Ai Group Workplace Lawyers, a national law firm operated by Ai Group.

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