Canberra Report - Changes to Workplace Relations Laws Unwind Union's Federal Court Wins - Wednesday, 31 March 2021

Canberra Report - Changes to Workplace Relations Laws Unwind Union's Federal Court Wins - Wednesday, 31 March 2021 Main Image

By Joel Fitzgibbon

31 March 2021

Most of the Government’s changes to our workplace relations laws have been defeated in the Senate. That’s a good thing.  They were unfair.

However, a couple of the changes in the Bill made it through with the support of One Nation.  The one which affects our electorate most is the change to casualisation which for too long has been on the rise in the coal mining industry.  A number of Union wins in the Courts looked like putting an end to the employer practice of paying those working for labour hire companies less for doing the same job as their workmates.

In one vote, the Senate unwound all the Federal Court wins.  It’s now for those who voted for the change to explain their actions.


I briefly returned to Canberra this week to launch an excellent book written by the father of a digger we lost in an insider attack in Afghanistan.  Like many of my speeches and national opinion pieces, my address can be found on my website -

In August 2012, Private Robbie Poate, Lance Corporal Rick Milosevic, and Sapper James Martin were murdered by Afghan National Army (ANA) Sergeant known as Hekmatullah.

Our troops had been deployed to train and mentor local soldiers to build the capacity and capability of the ANA.  The Taliban infiltrator turned his NATO issued M-16 on our three boys.  Others were wounded.  It was a tragedy.

Hugh Poate’s Failures of Command is a heartrending account of the experiences of three families devastated first by avoidable tragedy, then by inexplicable and inexcusable interference in their search for answers, accountability, justice, and closure.

Hekmatullah should never have been given the opportunity to kill our diggers and sadly, the Defence establishment went to great lengths to frustrate the family’s search for answers.

Every field of collective endeavour has its own culture.  Every industry, every profession, every institution, every political party. That is also true of military forces. Indeed, defence culture is particularly unique.

In that organisation, employees are trained in the use of lethal force and can be legally authorised to use it.  They are programmed to deploy into operations from which they may never return. To take risks, to protect their mates, or to improve the odds of mission success.

We accept the special nature of the work of our military personnel and therefore, expect and tolerate a culture which is necessary for the effective protection of our country and its people.  A culture crucial to the success of military operations and the welfare of our troops.

For me, this tacit approval of a culture we would not otherwise tolerate is justified.  There could be no effective force without it. 

Driven by the tragic and avoidable loss of his son, Hugh Poate has gone to great lengths to show us, what we might expect when the “special” status we extend to our men and women in uniform is abused.

Actor Jack Nicholson’s quote, “you can’t handle the truth” in the movie A Few Good Men, alerted us in one timeless scripted line, how dangerous the betrayal of our trust can be.  That is why Hugh’s contribution is so important. Lest We Forget.