The LNP backbencher George Christensen has broken ranks and crossed the floor to vote with Labor on a penalty rates amendment, but the proposal lacked the numbers to pass into law.
After trying to flush out Christensen on a banking inquiry bill during the last parliamentary sitting week, Labor on Tuesday night pulled on a second procedural stunt by seeking to amend an industrial relations bill to reverse the impact of the Fair Work Commission’s decision to cut Sunday penalty rates.
The move caught the Turnbull government flat footed, and there was a scramble and a short filibuster in the House of Representatives to ensure there were sufficient numbers in the chamber to prevent the government legislation being successfully amended.
Christensen on Monday introduced a private members bill designed to stop the Sunday penalty rates cut. His bill would also stop penalty rates from being cut under enterprise agreements if an employee was worse off than under an award wage.
Labor on Tuesday night initially moved amendments to a government bill which reflects the opposition’s position on penalty rates.
Christensen was absent from the chamber for that vote.
Labor subsequently moved a second amendment which mirrored the terms of Christensen’s private member’s bill.
The LNP backbencher attended the chamber for that vote, and crossed the floor to vote with the opposition, but the amendment fell one vote short.
Last week, Labor attempted to lure Christensen into crossing the floor to support a bill which would have initiated an inquiry into the big banks – a proposal for which the LNP backbencher had been signalling support – but he ultimately backed out.
Research from the McKell Institute indicates the key Coalition-held Queensland electorates of Leichhardt and Dawson – Christensen’s seat – will be hit hard by the decision of the Fair Work Commission to cut Sunday penalty rates for workers in hospitality, retail, fast food and pharmacy.
According to that research, Christensen’s seat was the third-worst hit on a list of regional electorates, and faced potential income losses across the electorate of approximately $19m.