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February 20, 2009

THE Coalition is growing more likely to oppose key sections of Labor’s proposed new workplace laws, taking its cue from a widening mutiny by business.

Resolve has hardened in Opposition ranks in recent days, as a chorus of business chiefs — including Heather Ridout of the Australian Industry Group, who has the ear of government on many issues — demanded major changes to the legislation.

Liberal sources have told The Age of a growing mood in the Coalition to block the bill on issues such as rules expanding union access to workplaces and compulsory arbitration.

Opposition workplace spokesman Michael Keenan was cautious yesterday, saying only that Labor had exceeded its mandate in the new laws.

“Julia Gillard swore black and blue that right-of-entry laws would be kept the same, but she has massively expanded them,” he said. Mr Keenan also blasted plans to let union delegates inspect the pay records of non-union members in a workplace as “outrageous”.

Now others in the Coalition are saying privately there is a growing confidence about taking Labor on over the issue, despite the risk of being accused of trying to retain the politically poisonous WorkChoices laws.

A Senate inquiry into the laws is due to report by next Friday, and Coalition senators are expected to demand a range of changes. That will put the spotlight back on Family First senator Steve Fielding and independent Nick Xenophon.

Meanwhile, workplace law experts rejected the claims that Labor had exceeded its electoral mandate in a significant way.



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