With the Federal election drawing nearer, debate between the Coalition, ALP and minor parties over industrial relations and workplace reforms has increased, with the unpredictable economic environment, rising inflation and cost of living pressures focussing recent debate on wages and secure work.

Current polling indicates the election race remains tight, with the prospect of the major parties needing to cooperate with minor party representatives and independent cross benchers in order to form minority Government still in play. To assist national system employers prepare for the potential reforms that may be coming, whoever may ultimately form Government, we have prepared the following brief summary of the major parties’ key industrial relations and workplace policies, including information as to the position of the Greens and One Nation who, if minority Government is ultimately formed, may have increased influence over the direction of the next Parliament.

To date the ALP has published an extensive list of industrial relations and workplace reforms focussed on, amongst other things, secure work, wage growth and abolishing the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) by repealing the Building and Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Act 2016, and in turn, the Code for Tendering and Performance of Building Work 2016, while also abolishing the Registered Organisations Commission (ROC). Meanwhile, the Coalition has indicated it will reintroduce many of the measures proposed in the previous Fair Work Amendment (Supporting Australia’s Jobs and Economic Recovery) Bill 2021 (Omnibus Bill) as well as the Religious Discrimination Bill 2022, which One Nation has indicated it will continue to support. The Coalition has also emphasised its economic record as being key to managing cost of living pressures and driving wage growth. The Greens have also put forward a policy proposal which, like the ALP, will prioritise securing worker protections, wage theft and closing the gender pay gap.


Access the full ALP election platform here.


Access the full Coalition election platform here and here.


Access the full Greens election platform here.

  • Increase wages by supporting minimum wage cases.
  • Include secure work as an objective of the Fair Work Act 2009 (FW Act) to ensure the Fair Work Commission (FWC) considers job security in its decision-making.
  • Extend the powers of the FWC to include “employee-like” forms of work, meaning the FWC will be able to make minimum standards for other kinds of work, such as that carried out in the gig economy.
  • Legislate an objective test to determine when a worker is classified as casual, to reflect that casual employment involves an “absence of a firm advance commitment as to the duration of the employee’s employment or the days or hours the employees will work”.
  • Establish a national labour hire licensing scheme and legislate to ensure that workers employed through labour hire or other employment arrangements such as outsourcing will not receive less pay than workers employed directly.
  • Legislate to make wage theft a criminal offence, and increase penalties for entities that engage in such conduct.
  • Amend the FW Act to limit fixed term contracts for the same role to two consecutive contracts or a maximum duration, including renewals, of two years.
  • Introduce a Secure Australian Jobs Code to ensure money being spent through Government contracts is being used to support secure employment. The Code will establish guidelines including in relation to wages and conditions and compliance with the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012.
  • Consult with State and Territory Governments, unions and industry to develop, where practical, portable entitlement schemes for Australians in insecure work.
  • Include gender pay equity as an objective of the FW Act, strengthening the ability and capacity of the FWC to order pay increases in low paid, female dominated industries.
  • Abolish the ABCC and repeal the Building and Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Act 2016, which includes the Code for Tendering and Performance of Building Work 2016. The ALP will also abolish the ROC.
  • Legislate to include a right to superannuation in the National Employment Standards.
  • Legislation 10 days’ paid family and domestic violence leave.
  • The ALP has previous announced that creating a right to unpaid parental leave of up to two years and extending paid parental leave to 26 weeks’ paid leave was part of its national platform. However, it has recently stated that changes to parental leave will not be a commitment it takes to the election.
  • Reintroduce the Omnibus Bill which the Government was unable to pass last year. The Omnibus Bill proposed a number of changes, including criminalising wage theft, simplifying modern awards and reforming the enterprise agreement system. However, any reintroduced Omnibus Bill may not include certain temporary reforms originally proposed to help navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, such as allowing approval of agreements that do not pass the Better Off Overall Test in certain circumstances.
  • Reintroduce the Religious Discrimination Bill “as standalone legislation”.
  • Legislate to extend the maximum term of greenfields agreements from four to six years for major projects worth $500 million or more.
  • Maintain the ABCC and ROC and increase the maximum penalties that can be imposed under the Buildingand Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Act 2016 for engaging in unlawful conduct, including coercion and unlawful industrial action.
  • Consult on amendments to redundancy payment calculation methods in the National Employment Standards to ensure that redundancy payments “more fairly reflect average working hours over the course of a person’s employment”. This is designed to address inequity arising from more women moving between full time and part time work due to carers’ responsibilities
  • Create a single paid parental leave scheme of 20 weeks’ paid leave. Parents will, subject to meeting eligibility criteria, be able to share the entitlement where leave is taken within the first two years after the child’s birth or adoption. Single parents will have access to the full 20 weeks.
  • Protect the right of labour hire workers to “negotiate their own wages and conditions, and protect the flexibility and freedom these forms of work can offer”.
  • The Coalition has also previously pledged to introduce a national labour hire registration scheme and discussed the harmonisation of State-based labour hire licensing regimes.
  • Raise the minimum wage to 60% of the full time median wage and guarantee annual award wage increases of 0.5% above CPI in female dominated industries, including education, nursing, cleaning and childcare.
  • Provide for swift and accessible enforcement options in the case of wage theft.
  • Set and protect penalty rates at pre-July 2017 levels.
  • Legislate a presumption in favour of ongoing employment to combat insecure work.
  • Give casual, labour hire and gig economy workers access to legal protections, and strengthen entitlements to protect the rights of all workers.
  • Create a parental leave scheme of 26 weeks’ paid leave and ensure superannuation contributions are paid on parental leave.
  • Strengthen the 'equal remuneration' provisions of the FW Act and require the FWC to actively close the gender pay gap.
  • Provide workers the right to engage in industrial action, including the right to strike, outside of bargaining periods.
  • Require employers to grant reasonable requests for family friendly working arrangements.
  • Legislation 10 days’ paid family and domestic violence leave.
  • Contribute $500 a year to the superannuation accounts of low income earners who are primary carers of children under six or children under 16 with a disability requiring intensive care.
  • Extend workplace gender reporting obligations to the public sector and businesses employing more than 50 employees.
  • Require large employers to include gender pay gap data in their annual reports.
  • Boost the Workplace Gender Equality Agency’s powers to take action against employers who do not take steps to address gender pay gaps.
  • Implement all recommendations from the Respect@Work inquiry and Set The Standard report.

One Nation

Access the full One Nation election platform here.

  • Increase the national apprenticeship scheme whereby first year apprentices receive a 75% wage subsidy, followed by 50% the second year, and finally 25% in their third year.
  • Support the Coalition’s Religious Discrimination Bill in its current form.
  • Oppose the repeal of exemptions in the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 for religious educational institutions.

While the early days of this election campaign indicated that industrial relations would not be a major battleground, recent economic events and rising inflation have brought workplace reform to the fore.

Employers should expect that the issue of wages, particularly in the context of industries with a high percentage of female employees, will continue to be a key topic of discussion in the last days of the election campaign, and whoever forms Government will likely be expected to take meaningful action to address stagnating wage growth. Whether this will be addressed via a policy agenda focussed on increased protections and entitlements for workers or a policy agenda designed to “cut red tape” and create simpler, more efficient industrial relations frameworks is not yet clear.

Moray & Agnew’s Workplace team can provide more information as to the ways in which these policy proposals may affect your business. 

Further information / assistance regarding the issues raised in this article is available from the author, Elizabeth Radley – PartnerMatthew Parker – Senior Associate or your usual contact at Moray & Agnew.