Thursday, 18 March 2021
Fair Work Amendment (Supporting Australia's Jobs and Economic Recovery) Bill 2021; Second Reading
I rise to speak on the Fair Work Amendment (Supporting Australia's Jobs and Economic Recovery) Bill 2021. In the few minutes left before the hard marker, I'd like to make a couple of points. We've spent almost all week on this bill, and we're in the position now, pushing up against a hard marker, where the government has lost control of the program. We don't know what's going to happen next. We're hearing rumours of guillotines and hours motions happening. We understand that the government is perhaps going to have to significantly amend this bill in order to get some remnants of it through the chamber today.
The point I would make now, because I'm not sure we will be given time if the guillotine comes in, is that the government needs to be very clear about what it is going to ask the Senate to vote on today in relation to this bill. If the government has amendments that significantly wipe out schedules of this bill, it needs to move early to put them before the chamber so that, in a constrained debate—which I understand is what we're about to have—senators in this place understand exactly what it is they are being asked to vote on. If the majority of schedules are going to disappear from this bill, the government should let the Senate know early that that is what's happening. Senators have a whole series of amendments seeking to amend certain schedules, and there's no point moving those amendments if the government has given up on those schedules. We have no idea what the bill we're going to be asked to vote on will look like once the government has finished its negotiations with the crossbench; we have absolutely no idea. I say to the government: once the guillotine is moved, please be clear early about exactly what is left in this bill for senators to vote on.
This is unreasonable, and it shows the lack of ability the government has to manage the business of this chamber that we are in a position where we will have a guillotine, an hours motion and significant amendments put to one of the government's flagship bills. We've been debating this for three days. The government has put on a filibuster this morning to keep the bill going, because it still doesn't know what it's doing, yet we're going to be given a matter of minutes to vote yes or no on legislation that significantly affects working people's lives, perhaps without any idea of how those amendments work together.
To the government: if you are gutting your own bill, please move those amendments early so that the other amendments that crossbenchers and others, including ourselves, might have, which might become irrelevant if those schedules disappear, can be dealt with in an appropriate matter. It is going to be a constrained debate. The least the government can do in this mess that has been created over the past three days is to be upfront about what the bill as amended is going to look like and what senators will be asked to vote on. It is a complete shemozzle, frankly. We have had hours on this bill. All week the government's been scrambling to get this through. It looks like there will be significant amendments. We say to the government: please let us know what they are, and let us know early in the debate.