A push to make it easier to deregister unions and disqualify officials has suffered a blow, with a key crossbench senator signalling he won't support it.
The coalition’s Ensuring Integrity Bill, which could be debated in the upper house on Wednesday, would also put a public interest test on union mergers.
South Australian independent Tim Storer said on Tuesday he was not inclined to support the legislation at this stage.
He noted the public interest test would apply to unions, but not corporate mergers.
“The bill also applies harsher penalties to unions than currently apply to disqualified company directors and is more expansive,” Senator Storer said in a statement.
Industrial Relations Minister Kelly O’Dwyer has urged parliament to pass the bill, saying it will help combat lawless behaviour in militant unions.
She’s been trying to drum up eight of the 10 crossbenchers needed, six months after the government failed to win Senate support for the measures.
Australian Council of Trade Unions president Michele O’Neil has been in Canberra for the past two weeks, pushing for senators to block the legislation.
Senator Storer said the bill would also enable a wide range of individuals to initiate legal action against unions and union leaders, which was not the case for companies.
“The bill does not contain any provisions to prevent frivolous or vexatious applications to disqualify union officials. The Corporations Act does,” the SA independent said.
Earlier in the month, Prime Minister Scott Morrison signalled he would get tough on industrial relations and threatened to deregister the construction union.