Prime Minister Scott Morrison has lashed Labor for refusing to support laws making it easier to deregister unions and ban “thug” officials who break serious laws.
Addressing the West Australian Liberal party’s state conference in Perth on Saturday, Mr Morrison said it was “shameful” the opposition didn’t support the bill, which will be dealt with in the upper house in either October or November. The Morrison government will be able to use its majority to pass the bill in the lower house, but will need to convince four out of six crossbench senators to support it.
“The thuggish behaviour of militant unionists acting in a criminal way, in a serial way, should be banned and Labor oppose it,” Mr Morrison said. “Anthony Albanese and Labor are also opposing our laws to outlaw unions siphoning off workers’ wages and other entitlements held in workers entitlement funds.
“That is just shameful so we will press this this week.” Mr Morrison also goaded Mr Albanese over the CFMMEU’s Victorian branch secretary, John Setka, who is accused of making disparaging remarks about anti- domestic violence campaigner Rosie Batty and was convicted for harassing his wife.
Mr Albanese is trying to expel Mr Setka from the party.
But Mr Setka has mounted a legal challenge against his expulsion, with the court battle likely to drag on for months.
“Maybe they will get rid of John Setka, who knows,” Mr Morrison said. “But how can you not vote for a bill that would see John Setka booted out of the union movement as well?
“If he’s not good enough to be in the ALP, why is he good enough to be in a union?” Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie’s support will be crucial to passing the laws, with the Greens also opposed to the legislation.
She has signalled she might back them if Mr Setka refuses to stand down. Mr Morrison left the conference immediately after his speech, not speaking with reporters but having his photo taken with children before he dashed to another commitment.
Before his anti-union tirade, he crowed about the Liberal’s election victory in May, congratulating MPs who increased their margin including member for Canning Andrew “Tasty” Hastie.
He teased Labor’s expectation of a win, saying the party treated the campaign “like a coronation tour”.
Then-leader Bill Shorten kept telling West Australians how many times he visited the state but Labor didn’t snatch a single seat from the Liberals. “Perhaps he should have visited less,” Mr Morrison said, drawing laughter.