Greens to test One Nation, Xenophon with 'local jobs' amendment on key industrial relations bill
The Greens will attempt to wedge One Nation and the Nick Xenophon Team by proposing amendments to the Turnbull government's controversial bill to resurrect the Australian Building and Construction Commission.
The left-wing party will put forward a change to the building code that would require construction companies to use a minimum of 90 per cent Australian steel and only hire foreign workers as a last resort - or be ineligible to get government-funded work.
The Greens hope to pressure Pauline Hanson's One Nation and the NXT, vocal backers of local jobs and steel production, into amending the bill in such a way that would almost certainly be unamenable to the Turnbull government.
It comes amid a renewed protectionist push in Australian politics following Donald Trump's shock presidential victory in the US, on a platform of restoring long-lost manufacturing jobs and withdrawing from global free-trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Labor has a policy of using 90 per cent Australian steel in government projects and could be expected to back the amendments, although neither Labor nor the Greens will support the actual ABCC bill even in amended form.
Greens employment spokesman Adam Bandt said the amendment would be an opportunity for the South Australian NXT to "stand up and support Arrium", the embattled steelmaker. "Senator Xenophon talked big about Australian steel before the election and now is his chance to do something about it," Mr Bandt said.
"We'll see whether Pauline Hanson is serious about looking after local jobs or whether she just talks protectionist in Queensland to win votes then backs the elites when she's Canberra."
Victorian crossbench senator Derryn Hinch this week indicated the Turnbull government may get an "early Christmas present" in the form of a deal with himself and the NXT on the ABCC bill, which the government desperately wants to pass next week.
The restoration of the ABCC watchdog has been on the cards since Tony Abbott defeated Labor in 2013 but was stymied by the Senate in the previous Parliament. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull used the bill's failure as a trigger for the July 2 double dissolution election.
The Senate proved it could still create headaches for the Turnbull government on Thursday when it changed another key policy, the backpacker tax, to 10 per cent from 19.5 per cent - a move swiftly rejected by the government when the bill returned to the House of Representatives.