The (omni)bus that broke down: changes to casual employment and the remnants of the coalition’s industrial relations agenda

Andrew Stewart, Shae McCrystal, Joellen Riley Munton, Tess Hardy, Adriana Orifici

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


The Morrison Government saw the COVID-19 crisis as an opportunity to
reset the debate over Australia’s industrial relations system. Its ‘Omnibus Bill’
was the product of an unusually constructive process of dialogue with the
labour movement. Yet the reforms it proposed to the Fair Work regime largely
reflected both its own and employer groups’ previous concerns. Having
abandoned tripartism, it encountered familiar resistance in the Senate. After
a chaotic debate, the version which passed as the Fair Work Amendment
(Supporting Australia’s Jobs and Economic Recovery) Act 2021 (Cth) dealt
only with the topic of casual employment. We examine the changes made on
this important issue, which have replaced one set of problems with another.
We also outline the proposals (including on award flexibilities, enterprise
agreements, and compliance and enforcement) jettisoned by the government
from the original Bill, some of which could easily have been enacted. We
assess where all this leaves the Liberal/National Coalition’s reform agenda
and lament what we see as a missed opportunity to address pressing
problems in the labour market.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)132-169
Number of pages38
JournalAustralian Journal of Labour Law
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Labour law
  • industrial relations

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