Industrial legislation in Australia in 2017

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of Industrial Relations, 2018, 60 (3), pp. 378 - 396
Issue Date:
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© 2018, © Australian Labour and Employment Relations Association (ALERA), SAGE Publications Ltd, Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore and Washington DC. This article examines key industrial legislation passed by federal Parliament in 2017. The main development in federal industrial legislation for this year, which passed with bipartisan support, saw a weakened Coalition Government (forced from its traditional industrial relations (IR) stance) act to improve protections for vulnerable workers. This initiative introduced extended liability provisions regulating franchisors and holding companies. However, these provisions are a narrow response to an economy-wide problem because they do not establish measures to better regulate supply chains, labour hire and gig economy arrangements for the protection of vulnerable workers. Back in more familiar territory, the Coalition Government managed to implement part of its agenda to further regulate unions by establishing legislation that criminalises bargaining payments by employers to unions. A constitutional crisis over the citizenship status of federal Parliamentarians prevented the Coalition Government from passing legislation designed to curtail trade union activities. The article also considers significant State legislative developments including the introduction of mandatory labour hire licensing laws in South Australia and Queensland, industrial manslaughter laws in Queensland and regulation of ridesharing arrangements in Victoria. The article concludes by contrasting federal criminal penalties against union activity with civil penalties for businesses that exploit vulnerable workers, before suggesting future directions in industrial legislation.
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