PM urges Senate to act swiftly on ABCC

Malcolm Turnbull has given the Senate three weeks to make a decision about the government’s plan to restore the building and construction industry watchdog.


There’s every chance senators will do it in one, rejecting it and the organisation registration bill again, and providing the prime minister a trigger to dissolve both houses of parliament for an election on July 2.

Mr Turnbull is encouraging the Senate to pass both bills quickly when the special sitting starts on Monday.

“If the Senate decides to vote them down again, we would encourage them to do so swiftly,” he told reporters in Canberra on Sunday.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten believes the prime minister doesn’t really care if the bills are passed or not.

“Mr Turnbull and his team have really stopped governing for Australia for the last few months … I get the clear impression they want to have an election because they really don’t know what else to do,” he told reporters in Melbourne.


With Labor and the Greens voting against the bills, the government needs the support of six of the eight crossbench senators.

Labor isn’t going to muck around with filibusters or procedural motions.

Unlike the marathon debate over changes to the way Australians elect senators, the opposition is keen to have government legislation for a re-established Australian Building and Construction Commission rejected quickly and for a second time.

Labor also wants a quick vote on another bill imposing tougher governance measures on trade unions and their officials, already twice rejected by the Senate.

“We will not be delayed; we will deal with these bills,” Labor Senate leader Penny Wong has vowed.

Any delay will come from the crossbench, with independent Jacqui Lambie keen for a vote on a new piece of government legislation – abolition of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal – to be made a priority over the trade union bills.

Like other crossbenchers, she’s backing thousands of owner-driver truckies unhappy with the tribunal’s decision on minimum pay and load rates.

Because parliament was prorogued by the governor-general, at the prime minister’s request, all previous business needs to be re-started on Monday.

That means a joint sitting of both houses.

Then the House of Representatives separately will need to formally request the Senate reconsider the ABCC bills.

After that, two days has been set aside for debate and votes on the Registered Organisations Bill and repeal of the RSRT.

The lower house will adjourn shortly after question time on Tuesday, leaving senators to get on with their work.

It’s possible MPs won’t be required until budget day on May 3.