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IR changes could be pushed back to May without crossbench support

The Federal Government’s proposed changes to industrial relations laws could be pushed back after the cabinet’s IR minister Christian Porter said he would be taking “a couple of weeks” off following allegations of rape.

Porter denied the claims last week, stating that “nothing” in the allegations happened.

Senate crossbenchers, however, have said it is unlikely the Coalition will have enough votes to get the IR changes bill through the senate, which is due to report by March 12 according to the ABC.

“The Government needs three of five crossbenchers [and] I don’t think they have any of them yet,” Independent senator Rex Patrick said.

“Even without the absence of the Attorney-General, it would have been a difficult task to get a vote. It’s almost impossible without the Attorney-General.”

According to the ABC report, if the bill is not passed this week it will not have another opportunity before May. Acting industrial relations minister Michaelia Cash  said the government remains committed to passing the legislation at the “earliest opportunity”.

The bill has been controversial, with both the Labor party and the Australian Council of Trade Union’s pushing against some of the changes to IR law that they argue could leave workers worse off.

The bill adds a clause that will allow the Fair Work Commission to approve enterprise agreements that don’t meet the ‘better off overall test’ – potentially allowing business to weaken conditions and pay for its staff – for a period of at least two years.

“[These changes] were never raised during months of discussions with employers and the Government. The union movement will fight these proposals which will leave working people worse off,” ACTU secretary Sally McManus said.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s industrial relations director, Scott Barklamb, pushed back against delaying the vote, and said crossbenchers should “roll up their sleeves” and work constructively to get the bill passed.

“With JobKeeper ending in a matter of weeks, small business owners still struggling with restrictions and reduced trade cannot be the collateral damage of politicians being focused elsewhere,” Barklamb said, according to The Australian.

“[This bill is] too urgent to be allowed to be caught up in the Attorney-General taking leave”.

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