Anthony Albanese praises unions for shaping Labor’s IR agenda

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Katina Curtis
The Nightly
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Anthony Albanese has praised unions for shaping his party’s agenda including on controversial industrial relations changes in a rev-up speech to the annual labour movement’s conference.
Anthony Albanese has praised unions for shaping his party’s agenda including on controversial industrial relations changes in a rev-up speech to the annual labour movement’s conference. Credit: Martin Ollman/Getty Images

Anthony Albanese has praised unions for shaping his party’s agenda including on controversial industrial relations changes in a rev-up speech to the annual labour movement’s conference.

The Prime Minister also took the chance to further sharpen his attack on Opposition Leader Peter Dutton and expand on campaign themes he aired in a keynote speech last month.

Addressing the triennial ACTU conference in Adelaide on Wednesday night, Mr Albanese said for much of the Government’s work over the past two years, “the mighty trade union movement has given us strength and inspiration”.

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He cited examples including ending labour hire loopholes, changing the definition of casual workers and the bargaining system overhaul that resulted in the ability to pursue multi-employer deals.

“In your capacity to take issues direct from the frontline of the workplace and put them on the national agenda, in your ability to ignore phoney outrage and focus on real outcomes and in your enduring commitment to the patient work of meaningful change, we see the trade union movement at its very best,” he said.

“Solidarity has always been about more than standing together against unfairness. It’s about working together to achieve progress.

“That’s what the Liberals and Nationals have never been able to comprehend. For them, everything is always about conflict.”

In his speech last month, Mr Albanese drew a contrast between himself and Mr Dutton as one between a forward-looking, cooperative government and a combative Opposition that wants to return to the past.

It’s a theme that will get a lot of airings over the lead up to the next election, which is due within a year.

On Wednesday, he contrasted the Coalition overseeing the end of Australia’s car-making industry with his fresh “Future Made in Australia” push to revive advanced manufacturing, including in critical minerals processing.

Peter Dutton
The Prime Minister also took the chance to further sharpen his attack on Opposition Leader Peter Dutton and expand on campaign themes he aired in a keynote speech last month. Credit: AAP

The Coalition is opposing the mooted production tax credits for processed critical minerals and green hydrogen, pledging to instead support the resources sector by winding back Labor’s industrial relations changes and speeding up approvals processes.

Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke told Parliament the Coalition’s IR plans appeared to revive laws not seen since Workchoices was abolished.

“What was dead, buried and cremated is sort of the hands reaching up through the dirt and finding its way back. Zombie agreements that were previously abolished, finding their way to be enlivened,” he said.

Mr Albanese accused the Opposition of nastiness, laziness and a “gut instinct is always to gut workers’ rights”.

Employer association Ai Group said the celebration by the union movement of the IR laws would be “galling” for many businesses faced with more complex and cumbersome rules.

“The new laws, which the ACTU leaders have much welcomed, were transparently designed to provide a lifeline to a struggling union movement,” chief executive Innes Willox said.

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