Pauline Hanson has told the government it should drop its proposed watering down of the Better Off Overall Test (BOOT) if it wants One Nation to continue negotiations on the industrial relation legislation.
The government needs three of the five crossbench Senate votes to pass its legislation, which contains a raft of reforms. One Nation holds two votes.
In a letter to Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter delivered late Monday, Hanson said that while she and her party’s industrial relations spokesman Malcolm Roberts were available “for an open discussion” on reform, “it makes the task difficult if the Government maintains its plan to suspend the Better Off Overall Test for a further two years”.
“Therefore we strongly encourage you” to remove the relevant parts of the legislation “to continue the good faith negotiations and consideration of the Bill by One Nation Senators”.
Hanson wrote that One Nation had long supported improved and simplified IR legislation for small businesses and their more and 2.2 million workers.
But the bill in its current form was “inequitable and severely undermines the Better Off Overall Test (BOOT) that protects workers from the small number of deceitful employers,” she said.
Under the current BOOT, workers must be better off overall under a proposed enterprise agreement compared with the relevant modern award.
The legislation, now before parliament, proposes the BOOT would not have to be met if the Fair Work Commission decided this was appropriate given the impact of COVID on the enterprise.
The commission would also need to take into account the views of the workers, expressed in a vote.
The provision for suspending the BOOT would only apply to agreements made in the next two years, although the agreements themselves could run much longer.
The government has made it clear it will ditch its plan for the BOOT change if that is necessary to get its legislation through and has given every indication it expects to have to do so.
The Hanson demand may bring the argument about the BOOT to an early head, because there is also disquiet about the change among the other crossbenchers.