The unions have ramped up their attack on the Morrison Government’s proposed industrial relations reform, doubling down on a campaign the Attorney-General blasted as a “new low in Australian politics”.
On Monday, the Electrical Trades Union and construction chapter of the CFMEU refused to pull an ad Christian Porter described as “disgusting” and “insensitive” to people who have lost loved ones in road accidents.
The unions labelled the backlash “sanctimonious drivel” and will on Thursday release a new edition of the same commercial, this time naming lobby groups they claim are in bed with the Liberal Party to create laws that will leave workers with less pay and worse working conditions.
The ETU and CFMEU are lobbying crossbench senators to reject the Morrison government’s industrial relations omnibus bill they say will lock workers into an eight-year wage freeze.
“Scott Morrison is using this crisis as an excuse to roll a whole bunch of new workplace laws together into one big omnibus bill,” the original ad declares, panning across a group of uniformed workers before they are run over by a bus driven by the Prime Minister.
Emblazoned on the side of the menacing looking bus is “IR Omnibus Bill”, with a smirking Mr Morrison sitting behind the wheel.
In the new edition of the commercial, seen by NCA NewsWire, a number of employer lobby groups are named along the side of the bus as those “on board” with the new laws to “hurt Australian workers”.
These lobby groups include the Australian Industry (AI) Group, Business Council of Australia, Masters Builders Association and the Australian Mines and Metals Association.
“Australians have a right to know that big business is pulling the chain of the Liberal Party,” ETU national secretary Allen Hicks told the NCA NewsWire on Wednesday.
“Bosses are demanding these laws because they want lower wages and worse conditions for Australian workers.
“The relationship between bosses and their political mates in the Liberal Party is worse than cosy, it’s incestuous.”
Mr Hicks said the employer lobbies are “working hand in glove with the Liberals to silence dissent and avoid scrutiny”.
“Grubby business lobbyists and their political puppets have no right to silence working Australians,” he said.
On Monday, Mr Porter, who also serves as the industrial relations minister, insisted the claims in the campaign were factually inaccurate as well as insensitive.
He said it was the “most disgusting piece of advertising I’ve seen”.
“You don‘t need to do this,” Mr Porter told 2GB.
“It‘s just shamefully insensitive to people who have been through road traumas. It should be pulled.
“It crosses a massive line.”
But the ETU and CFMEU said this reaction was “sanctimonious drivel” from Mr Porter, referencing his coalition government’s list of recent scandals.
“The Liberals are not offended by sports rorts, by robodebt, leaving thousands of Australians stranded overseas, or by an omnibus bill that will leave workers worse off,” the CFMEU and ETU said in a joint statement to NCA NewsWire.
“But they pretend to be offended by an ad that calls out their anti-worker agenda. That tells us exactly where their priorities lie.”
CFMEU national construction secretary Dave Noonan said lobby groups had turned to censorship and cancel culture to shut down the debate, and called on cross bench senators to vote against the industrial relations bill.
“Morrison may think he can just reach into the bottom drawer and dust off the WorkChoices folder for another go, but our unions won’t stand by while employers are handed more power to attack workers’ rights,” he said.
But AI Group chief executive Innes Wilcox insists the omnibus bill is “balanced and fair”, saying industrial relations reform will encourage productivity, jobs growth and higher wages.
“Unions and employers representatives have been involved in its drafting after months of negotiations,” he said on Wednesday.
“Neither side have got all of what they would have wanted and the proposed bill overall represents a reasonable and workable settlement.”