Bring it on: Lazarus, on election threat

Independent senator Glenn Lazarus . Photo AAP

Independent senator Glenn Lazarus . Photo AAP

Crossbench senators are not concerned about the threat of a double-dissolution election over proposed laws to crackdown on union misconduct.

Legislation to create a Registered Organisations Commission and re-establish the Australian Building and Construction Commission will be re-introduced to parliament when it resumes next month.

Independent Senator Glenn Lazarus is willing to change his mind over the latter, but isn’t worried about the potential for the government to call an election if it fails.

‘As far as I’m concerned bring it on,’ he told ABC radio on Monday.

‘I’m not going to be blackmailed, nor are the people of Queensland going to be blackmailed over a double-dissolution.’

Senator Lazarus, who voted against the ABCC bill last year, said he wanted access to a sixth confidential volume of the royal commission into trade union’s report.

‘It’s going to help make our decision a lot quicker and easier.’

Instead of a building and construction commission, Senator John Madigan wants a national corruption watchdog similar to ICAC.

‘If the government came to me and genuinely said you know we’re about to weed out corruption wherever it is … I would support that 100 per cent,’ he said.

‘But … it’s disingenuous of the government to only target one area of society and that being the union movement.

Senator Madigan said it would be the government’s call to go to a double-dissolution over the changes.

Fellow crossbencher Nick Xenophon says a “number of aspects” of the commission’s report into trade union corruption need to be considered “seriously” by all senators.

‘I think it’s confirmed some of the concerns,’ he told reporters in Sydney.

The independent senator, who did back the government’s previous attempts to create a Registered Organisations Commission, says there is scope for reform.

‘I think with some sensible, practical amendments then that legislation ought to be passed,’ he said, citing whistleblower protections.

Liberal MP Dan Tehan wants the legislation to include banning unions from paying fines on behalf of their officials so they’re not worn as a “badge of honour”.

‘Rather than having the effect where they [fines] are punishing and trying to address lawlessness, they’re actually doing the opposite. People are wearing these as a badge of honour,’ he told the ABC.

Mr Tehan said banning unions from paying court-ordered penalties would bring them into line with companies.

‘We cannot have people breaking the law with impunity in this country, we must do something about it.’

The backbencher also wants the government to ban union officials who have been fined from holding office.

Government minister Steve Ciobo told Sky News the Australian people want the union movement to be cleaned up.

When asked whether the prime minister will commit to taking the issue to an election if it’s so serious, Mr Ciobo said “we’ll see what happens”.

Labor accused the government of seeking to destroy unions to pave the way for an attack on penalty rates.

‘Does anyone seriously believe that Malcolm Turnbull and his Liberals want stronger unions? They don’t,’ acting shadow employment spokesman Mark Dreyfus said in a statement.

The opposition wants a response from the government about Labor’s proposed measures cracking down on union corruption.

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