Industrial relations reforms: Crossbenchers step up pressure over secret report

Posted on 22/05/2019 by

Senator Glenn Lazarus said he would ask for a redacted version of the royal commission report. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen Royal commissioner Dyson Heydon said a volume of his report neeed to be confidential to protect witnesses. Photo: Louise Kennerley

Crossbench senators key to the success of the Turnbull government’s industrial relations reforms are increasing the pressure to release a secret report produced by the trade union royal commission.

Senators Glenn Lazarus, Jacqui Lambie and Ricky Muir last year voted against bills to reinstate a Howard-era building watchdog and to impose stricter penalties on union officials who breach their duties, with Labor and the Greens. The Senate twice rejected the latter bill, leaving open a potential trigger for a double-dissolution election.

The Coalition will try again this year to pass both bills, following the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption hearings. The commission released a five-volume final report last month.

Commissioner Dyson Heydon found that union misconduct was “widespread” and “deep-seated”.

Employment Minister Michaelia Cash has invited Senator Lazarus, an independent, and n Motoring Enthusiast Party senator Ricky Muir to briefings on the reforms, according to their offices.

Senator Lazarus and Senator Lambie, also an independent, have vowed to continue opposing government bills on industrial relations until the sixth volume of the royal commission’s report to the government – the only one kept confidential – has been released.

Mr Heydon, a former High Court judge, said in his interim report last year that the confidential volume involved 29 threats to witnesses.

The volume needed to be confidential “to protect the physical wellbeing of those witnesses and their families,” he said. “This is unfortunate, because the confidential volume reveals grave threats to the power and authority of the n state.”

Senator Lazarus said on Monday that he would ask Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Mr Heydon for a redacted version of volume six, and was willing to sign a confidentiality agreement on its contents. He had previously opposed the bills because the commission had not yet concluded.

He said he would support the government’s IR changes if they protected workers’ rights to change unions in light of misconduct, and if he had access to the report “so I can make an informed decision when considering the upcoming bills”.

Mr Heydon last year refused Senator Lambie’s requests for access to the report, with witnesses’ names redacted, saying in a letter seen by Fairfax Media, that this would not give witnesses “effective protection”.

Senator Lambie has also said she will not support the n Building and Construction Commission bill until the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union has been deregistered.

Mr Turnbull vowed to make union reform an election issue if the Senate blocked new laws.

Ms Cash was not available for comment.

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