Independent Senator Jacqui Lambie has blasted Labor and the Greens over their industrial relations bill.
She has accused Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and minor party leader Adam Bandt of failing to support a female-led union branch.
The Tasmanian politician held an emotionally-charged conference in Canberra on Thursday, criticising the PM and Greens leader Adam Bandt for bowing to CFMEU Victorian state secretary John Setka.
The Senate will vote on the industrial relations bill – which includes a controversial ‘right to disconnect’, or refuse bosses’ calls after hours – on Thursday.
Mr Albanese and Industrial Relations Minister Tony Burke have the support of the Greens, and independent senators David Pocock and Lidia Thorpe.
Independent Senator Jacqui Lambie has put the Labor government and Greens on notice in a fiery speech demanding stronger support for a female-led organisation
Senator Lambie will not support the bill, citing persistent concerns about small and medium businesses – and an issue she has with the CFMEU.
She said Labor and the Greens should get behind an amendment which would allow a secret ballot for the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union to demerge from CFMEU Victoria.
‘(CFMEU chief) John Setka is running the Labor party,’ Ms Lambie fumed.
‘It’s sad that the Greens have allowed John Setka to infiltrate Adam Bandt’s office. I want every Green voter to know that.’
She said neither party could claim they were ‘for women’, unless they wave through her amendment to the government’s workplace relations bill.
‘Give these women their rights,’ Senator Lambie said, ‘otherwise every time I get in that chamber I will remind you, you do not stand for women’s rights. You don’t care for women.
‘Where is Katy Gallagher (Minister for Women)?’
Jenny Kruschel, the union’s secretary, said female members and staff felt ‘unsafe’ around the CFMEU.
‘We had to move our division out of the building and it’s a very uncomfortable environment,’ Ms Kruschel said.
Ms Lambie said the government had refused to endorse the secret ballot, causing her to question whether Mr Setka was ‘running the Labor Party’.
‘Don’t you women dare stand up and talk about women’s rights in that chamber, because as of today, in my eyes, your credibility has gone down the gurgler.
‘You are shameful, absolutely shameful.’
Ms Lambie said thousands of women are part of this union, many of whom are from non-English speaking backgrounds.
She said they are entitled to a secret ballot to take control of the union’s future.
Ms Lambie said the government has ‘two hours to get back in your party room and rethink that, to support this amendment.’
Ms Lambie attempted to move amendments to allow the manufacturing division of the CFMEU, TCFU, to hold a secret ballot to demerge from the main organisation
She accused the government of backing down from her request out of fear the Greens would pull their support for the IR bills.
Ms Lambie also gave an additional, direct warning to Mr Bandt about his future as leader of the party.
‘There have been mumblings about your leadership for a long time,’ she said.
‘Maybe it’s time you take those mumblings seriously.’
In the Senate, Ms Lambie said of her amendment: ‘Who in here could in all conscience vote against these women?
‘If your party is telling you to vote against this amendment, I want you to think about how you will feel about betraying these women.
‘All the passionate speeches that I’ve heard in this place about domestic violence, how women should be empowered to take control over their lives, did you mean them and will you stand by your words for these women?’
‘If, God forbid, after everything that has gone on in the last three or four years up here you don’t stand up for these women your credibility will go down the drain just like that.’