National

Government tries to rush union bill 2.0

By AAP Newswire

Union-busting legislation is set for another Senate showdown after the Morrison government used its majority to fast track the reintroduced bill through the first hurdle of parliament.

The lower house was suspended for half an hour on the final sitting day of parliament for the year as Labor tried to stall the move.

The government is attempting to seize a potential vote from Senate crossbencher Jacqui Lambie, who is open to supporting its reheated "ensuring integrity" bill if the proposed laws are reviewed after two years.

Senator Lambie has also rekindled a threat to back the bill if Victorian construction union boss John Setka does not resign from his union post.

The draft laws were reintroduced to the lower house on Wednesday, less than a week after being voted down in the Senate.

In line with procedure, debate was not expected until next year.

But Attorney-General Christian Porter on Thursday has used the government's majority to meddle with the day's agenda to try and ram the bill through to the Senate.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese accused the government of abusing democratic process.

"They run in, they gag debate, they refuse to allow anyone to speak, to push through legislation to what end?" he told reporters in Canberra.

"Dissent and the right of people to represent their electorates has been shut down."

Asked in question time about fast-tracking the bill, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he wanted to ensure "thugs get the punt".

"We will not put up with that, the Australian people won't put up with that and we will ensure there is integrity in the workplace," he said.

Mr Morrison nominated passing the bill as one of the key achievements he was looking forward to in 2020.

Senator Lambie has demanded the two-year review in return for her support for the legislation, which makes it easier to deregister unions and ban their officials.

"If the government thinks my previously unworkable amendments are now workable, well, I think that's great," she told The Australian Financial Review.

"I'm always happy to work constructively with the government and I note that the CFMEU haven't cleaned up their act - John Setka is still there."

Before the surprise move, Labor promised to continue fighting against the proposed laws over the summer break.

"We'll continue to make sure that working Australians have the right to organise to improve their pay and conditions," Labor frontbencher Tanya Plibersek told AAP.

"It is disappointing in the extreme that the government is not listening to the parliament on this bill."