The prime minister has turned to his “old friend”, who has worked in the housing industry for more than three decades, to help seal a deal to reinstate the Australian Building and Construction Commission.
He praised the South Australian Senator for seeking to convince five of seven other crossbench senators to pass the bill – the number needed to get the legislation through the Senate.
“He is showing real leadership,” Turnbull told reporters in Sydney on Tuesday.
“When he talks about the need for rule of law on construction sites around the country, when he talks about the economic growth that will deliver, he is speaking from experience.”
Turnbull is willing to consider changes to pass the bill and potentially avoid calling a double-dissolution election but only if they’re consistent with the intent of the legislation.
It comes as the building union launched an attack on the government’s proposed commission, alleging the body was responsible for a dramatic rise in workplace deaths when it existed from 2005 to 2012.
The attack was criticised as “outlandish and extreme” by the prime minister, who called for his Labor counterpart Bill Shorten to distance himself from the CFMEU.
The CFMEU was one of the largest financial supporters of the Labor Party and Shorten “does as they ask”, Turnbull said.
Opposition employment spokesman Brendan O’Connor, whose brother heads the union, issued a more subtle warning.
“I believe in debates such as this we should be using temperate language and we should base our assertions on facts,” O’Connor told reporters in Melbourne on Tuesday.
Employment Minister Michaelia Cash said any proposed changes to the ABCC bill must be presented by a bloc of six crossbenchers.
“The reality is if you don’t have that magic number six they are not going to get through the Senate,” she told Sky News.
“When you negotiate with individuals, you might secure one vote and then you have to go and have that conversation another seven times.”
O’Connor accused the federal government of outsourcing its negotiations to Day.
“The government is confused and is sending confusing messages to the Australian people.”
Governor-General Peter Cosgrove, on the prime minister’s advice, recalled both houses of parliament for a three-week sitting from April 18.
If the legislation is not passed, it will become the trigger for a double dissolution to be held on July 2.
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