The Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) was
set up in 2005 by the Howard Government as a construction industry
watchdog. In 2012, the Rudd Government reduced the ABCC's
coercive powers and renamed it Fair Work Building and Construction
(FWBC). When the Coalition attempted to re-introduce the ABCC, it
was blocked by the Senate and a double dissolution election was
As the catalyst for a double dissolution, it was expected that
workplace policy would be at the forefront of both major
parties' election campaigns however workplace relations did not
feature heavily. As the Coalition only claimed a small majority of
seats in the House of Representatives and the Senate in the
election, they may encounter some difficulties in passing workplace
legislation to meet their mandated pre-election policies detailed
Policies we are yet to receive updates on
The Coalition pledged to re-establish the ABCC and in October
2016 introduced a bill seeking to deliver this objective. The bill
recently passed through the House of Representatives however, it is
unclear if it will be accepted by the Senate, noting that the
Opposition has indicated it won't support the ABCC.
The Coalition declared specific policies to protect vulnerable
workers. These policies include:
increasing the penalties that will apply to employers who
introducing new legislative provisions that deal with
seeking to impose liability onto parent companies that do not
adequately address employee exploitation within the franchise
increasing funding to the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO).
The Migrant Workers Taskforce has been introduced to
specifically target the exploitation of migrant workers. The
Taskforce has been established to explore the causes of
exploitation among migrant workers and allow for inter-agency
collaboration. This is likely to affect employers who hire a large
number of employees on migration visas.
The total proposed investment on protecting vulnerable workers
under these collective policies is estimated to be $20 million.
The official position of the Government is that penalty rates
are determined and fall within the domain of the Fair Work
Commission (FWC). As a result, no statutory amendments are
presently anticipated to penalty rates, notwithstanding a number of
members of Parliament arguing that penalty rates for hospitality
and retail workers should be cut. The Opposition has consistently
argued and conveyed that it will contest any cuts to rates.
In light of the narrow majority the Government has, it seems
unlikely there will be significant industrial relations reforms.
There is the possibility that some of the relevant policies
proposed may be passed, particularly if they find favour with other
parties in Parliament. In view of this, it will be necessary for
employers to continually monitor any potential changes to
applicable workplace law and ensure their practices are
Changes on the horizon
The Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment Bill
2014, which sought to implement some of these changes, was
passed by the Senate this week.
During the election, the Coalition also proposed a number of
policy objectives targeting registered organisations such as:
allowing courts to ban officials who repeatedly break the
banning payments between employers and unions, unless the
payments fall within a legitimate exception category, and
enabling courts to place registered organisations in
administration or deregister them if they become
The Coalition has indicated these initiatives are intended to
impose strong obligations on employers, unions and
The PaTH policy and wage subsidies have recently been put in
The Government has proposed a policy to address youth
unemployment. PaTH (Prepare-Trial-Hire) is a $751.7 million
initiative to help reduce the unemployment rate of people under 25.
The three stages of this initiative will include pre-employment
training, real work experience and wage subsidies. The focus is on
enhancing pre-employment skills training to increase youth
Wage subsidies are currently available to employers with
eligible employees. This proposal aims to streamline processes for
accessing the wage subsidy. You can find out more about current
wage subsidies here.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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