Gay marriage, unions focus of parliament

Liberal front bencher George Brandis concedes that the return from the winter recess proved a boisterous week in parliament, but said it was “nonsense” to say the government was in disarray.


Fellow minister Michael Keenan says when parliament returns on Monday the government will be back to business, focusing on the things that are important for the future of Australia.

But two issues that overshadowed proceedings last week, union corruption and same-sex marriage, will again dominate the start of the four-day parliamentary week.

Labor’s workplace relations spokesman Brendan O’Connor has vowed to pursue the government over unions royal commissioner Dyson Heydon after he had originally agreed to address a Liberal-organised event before pulling out.

Meanwhile, Employment Minister Eric Abetz is in talks with crossbench senators to secure the passing in the Senate of two bills – one to restore the Australian Building and Construction Commission and the other to set up a registered organisations commission.

He says a special “cop on the beat” will clean up the construction industry and help boost investment and jobs.

However, crossbench senators want more safeguards in the laws including a time limit on the ABCC’s coercive powers.

Labor says police and anti-corruption authorities have all the powers they need to deal with misconduct by unions and employers.

Also on Monday, Liberal National Party MP Warren Entsch will introduce his bill – which has cross-party support – to allow for same-sex marriage.

The bill is unlikely to come on for a vote before the end of the parliamentary term.

Cabinet will meet, its first gathering since the coalition joint party room voted not to have a conscience vote on gay marriage, instead leaving the decision to the people.

Intelligence committee chairman Dan Tehan will update the parliament on when he expects his inquiry into the controversial citizenship bill to conclude.

The China free trade agreement will come under the spotlight on Monday, with dairy industry representatives and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade giving evidence at a public hearing of the treaties committee.

The Senate will receive reports on multinational taxation, out-of-home care, community service tendering processes by the Department of Social Services, violence against women and the circumstances surrounding a letter sent to Senator Brandis by Sydney siege gunman Man Haron Monis.

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