He accused One Nation, which blind-sided the government by voting against the IR bill in the Senate on Thursday, of “siding with thugs from the CFMEU [Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union]”.
“Very often, you’ve got to bring those things to the Senate a couple of times before you succeed,” Mr Porter told reporters in Adelaide. “This is just a critical piece of legislation that we won’t be giving up.”
In the past few weeks, Ms O’Neil said, at least 45,000 people had emailed crossbench senators Jacqui Lambie, One Nation’s Pauline Hanson and Malcolm Roberts, and Centre Alliance’s Rex Patrick and Stirling Griff, imploring them to reject the bill.
“We will continue to advocate and campaign for the rights of all working people with all members of parliament,” she said.
Employers welcomed Mr Porter’s determination to bring back the bill and called on One Nation and Senator Lambie to reconsider their position.
“We need the new laws to end the toxic culture in the construction industry,” Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox said.
Senator Hanson, who was the subject of a long-running ACTU lobbying effort, said on Friday even her staffers had not known how she would vote. In the days beforehand, she accused the Morrison government of a “double standard” in its treatment of unions and business, singling out the Westpac money-laundering scandal as an example.
It is understood Ms McManus made it one of her first tasks after being elected to the role in 2017 to visit Senator Hanson, whose reliance on the votes of blue-collar workers and control of two Senate votes made her key to the fight against the Coalition’s workplace law agenda.
Labor senator Tony Sheldon, former secretary of the Transport Workers Union (TWU), visited Senator Hanson in her office two weeks before the Senate debate on the bill, relating the story of an armoured car driver who was shot and killed on the job.
The TWU had taken unprotected industrial action, which is illegal, to fight for better safety standards and Senator Sheldon implored the One Nation leader to vote against the bill to prevent union officials from potentially being disqualified over similar action.
The government had relied on One Nation’s support to pass the bill in the Senate after rejecting amendments proposed by Senator Lambie to soften the impact on unions.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese was flanked by members of the nurses’ union during a press conference in Melbourne on Friday when he declared the result “a victory for working people”.
“It wasn’t something that was done by politicians, it wasn’t done by the leaders of the trade union movement,” he said. “What it was done by was by working people, expressing their views.”
Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation secretary Annie Butler was central to the campaign, warning crossbenchers the bill would imperil her members’ efforts to fight for patient safety, highlighting the union’s role in exposing abuses in aged care.
Mr Porter will bring the bill, with the amendments he had negotiated with Centre Alliance and One Nation, to the Coalition party room next week. He remains opposed to Senator Lambie’s amendments, which he described as “totally unworkable”.
Senator Hanson warned the CFMMEU to stop “bullying, thuggery and corruption … because my vote next time around is not going to be guaranteed”, while calling on the government to take tougher action on white-collar crime, particularly in the banking sector.
Dana is health and industrial relations reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.