Retailers support Crossbench bid to split controversial IR Bill

Australia’s peak retail body, the Australian Retailers Association (ARA), has called on the Albanese Government, and Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke, to pass the four industrial relations bills that have just passed the Senate.

On 6 November 2023, Senators David Pocock and Jacqui Lambie introduced Private Members Bills bringing forward sensible and broadly supported components of the legislation, allowing time for much-needed scrutiny on other more controversial elements in the government’s legislation.

These Bills passed the Senate on 9th November 2023 and will now need to be tabled and voted on in the House of Representatives.

In early October, the ARA urged the Senate Inquiry into the Closing Loopholes Bill to split the omnibus legislation into multiple bills to ensure the swift passage of non-contested elements, and we commend the Senate in doing so.

ARA CEO Paul Zahra said that the passing of these Bills in the Senate is a win for common sense and urged Minister Burke to support these Bills when they are tabled in the Lower House.

“While the Minister is on record saying he doesn’t want to split the Closing Loopholes Bill, it is clear that it is the will of the Senate and we urge the Minister to back it in the Lower House, in support of the workers most in need.

“These Bills cover provisions such as family and domestic violence protections, workplace health and safety changes and small business redundancy exemptions, and they need to be implemented swiftly.

“These measures are the Government’s own measures, and they would be playing politics if they hold up their own measures in the House.

“This is a sensible approach to break through the ongoing stalemate over this legislation.”

The remaining provisions, such as redefining casual work and the proposed reforms to labour hire arrangements threaten to hinder productivity, increase complexity and limit the creation of secure jobs so it is imperative that they are properly investigated, debated and amended, without holding up the uncontested measures.

Mr Zahra said the ARA is willing to work with the Government and other members of Parliament in consultation on the remaining components of the Closing the Loopholes Bill.

“It is counter-productive to rush through legislation that is ill-conceived and could move workplace relations in the wrong direction without any upside in terms of productivity, job creation or workforce participation.

“Retailers are already navigating the implementation of the largest set of workplace reforms in decades – many of them without sufficient inhouse resources, expertise or legal support. They are doing so in a uniquely complex economic landscape where we have seen a softer consumer spending coinciding with higher costs of doing business including an increase in retail crime and acute ongoing labour shortages.

“This is particularly concerning for small businesses, who are often entirely focused on survival meaning any increase to the burden of workplace changes will be difficult to prepare for.”

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