Anthony Albanese has been dealt a fresh blow after the Coalition teamed up with key crossbenchers to scuttle the timeline of Labor’s industrial relations reform.
The Senate voted on Thursday to push the reporting date of an inquiry into legislation the government says will close “loopholes” in labour hire until February next year.
It’s now unlikely the Bill, which was introduced to parliament on Monday, will pass this year.
The government says the laws would crack down on labour hire, regulate the gig economy, increase penalties for wage theft and improve a pathway for permanency for casual workers.
It had hoped the reforms would pass this year following a four-week debate in the House and a senate inquiry, which the government had proposed would report back in November.
But those hopes were dashed when independent senators David Pocock, Jacqui Lambie, Tammy Tyrrell, Ralph Babet and One Nation sided with the Coalition to delay the reporting date.
The Greens voted with the government but were defeated 33 votes to 32.
Opposition workplace relations spokeswoman Michaelia Cash accused the government of trying to ram through the legislation without proper consideration.
“If you were given 800 pages of complex legislation that was going to affect your business, would you not ask the government to actually give this chamber the opportunity to properly scrutinise it on your behalf?” she told the Senate.
Finance Minister Katy Gallagher argued that she did not expect the Coalition to materially charge their views if even the reporting date was delayed.
“We believe this is enough time for people to get across the detail, particularly when they will be supported by the work of the public service,” Ms Gallagher said.
“We don't believe there is a need to delay this to February … Fundamentally, they don't want this Bill to be debated in this place.”
Employment Minister Tony Burke slammed the Coalition for delaying the Bill, which would have also included new rights for family and domestic violence victims.
“They spent their entire time in government keeping wages low and holding workers back – and they’re still at it,” he said in a statement.
Earlier this week, the peak business lobby slammed the reforms as “bad legislation” that was only interested in bolstering union membership.
“The government has not made a case for these changes,” Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Andrew McKellar said.
“It has not been able to outline how this legislation will enhance productivity, lift wages, or make it easier to generate more jobs.”