But Burke said the possibility of getting everyone to agree on the working relationship was “a remote possibility”.
“You can negotiate forever, and what happens during that time? We continue to keep wages low,” he said.
Flanked by a host of early educators, whom the government has propelled as potential beneficiaries of multi-employer bargaining, Burke grappled with the use of soaring cost-of-living arguments to oppose legislation.
“The cost of living has two sides, it has prices and it has wages, and you can’t seriously care about the cost of living unless you do something about wages,” Burke said. .
The bill passed 80 to 56 with support from the Greens and some independents including Dr Monique Ryan and Zoe Daniel, the latter of whom described concern over the potential impact on small businesses as ” multiparty”. Independent Helen Haines also said the size of the companies affected should be taken into account.
South Australian independent Rebekha Sharkie pushed to raise the definition of a small business to 100 employees, saying the current bill would encompass fruit and vegetable shops, petrol stations and other small independent operators.
“This bill unintentionally puts mom and dad operators against unions,” Sharkie said. “This government is setting up small business for a David vs. Goliath battle, where David is small business and Goliath is the unions.”
Opposition MP Dan Tehan said the House was sending Burke a clear message: “You are wrong”.
The government rejected most of the amendments from MPs and the opposition, which included removing the right of trade unions to veto wage agreements between employers and workers.
Independent Dr Sophie Scamps, of Sydney’s northern beaches, has also received support from fellow Sydney independent Allegra Spender and Western Australian Kate Chaney to oppose the scrapping of the controversial Australian Building Commission and construction.
The government has pledged to abolish the agency as it believes it is politicized and primarily concerned with monitoring union activity.
Independent North Sydney MP Kylea Tink, who successfully proposed an amendment to give more responsibility to a new construction industry watchdog, has slammed the government for receiving dozens of pages of amendments with only one day to review them.
“Creating a lot of this anxiety is the result of the government’s decision to push this through so quickly,” Tink said.
Burke made several concessions after negotiating with companies and unions, including barring the commercial construction industry from being able to engage in multi-employer bargaining and making it easier for workers to participate in industrial action.
Business groups including the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Australian Industry Group and the Business Council of Australia – which the government has consulted about the legislation – issued a joint statement on Wednesday urging not to pass the bill.
Cut through the noise of federal politics with news, opinion and expert analysis from Jacqueline Maley. Subscribers can sign up for our weekly Inside Politics newsletter here.