Living costs, workplace reform on parliament agenda


The cost of living and workplace reforms are expected to dominate federal parliament this week.

Politicians will return on Monday for a fortnight-long sitting, after a three-week break from Canberra.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will be away for a sizeable chunk of the sitting as he travels through Asia and attends the G20 summit in New Delhi.

Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke will introduce a raft of changes to industrial laws on Monday.

The "closing loopholes" bill will define casual employment, set minimum standards for independent contractors in the gig economy, and safeguard workers from discrimination if they have been affected by domestic violence.

It will also propose criminalising industrial manslaughter, under the Commonwealth's work health and safety laws, after 91 workers so far this year were fatally injured in their workplaces.

The new offence will apply where the gross negligence or recklessness of a duty holder leads to a workplace death and is expected to come into force on July 1 next year.

Under the laws, individuals face a maximum penalty of 25 years imprisonment if convicted of industrial manslaughter, and body corporates face fines of up to $18 million.

The changes are part of the second phase of the Labor government's planned industrial relations changes.

But the opposition has branded this next round of changes as "draconian" and "radical", and claims parliament will have less than 24 hours to consider the bill before debate begins.

"This bill imposes new barriers to casual employment - even though many Australians prefer this mode of work - and aims to force all workers in a given role at a given workplace to be paid exactly the same, regardless of experience or performance," the manager of opposition business in the house Paul Fletcher said.

Independent South Australian MP Rebekha Sharkie will seek to progress the debate on the real-time disclosure of political donations and a lowering of the donation threshold to improve transparency.

Fellow NSW Independent MP Allegra Spender will lead a debate on the housing crisis, calling for fresh ways to boost supply and make more land available, as well as support young people and renters.

The federal opposition will pursue the government over the decision to knock back Qatar Airways from securing extra flights - a decision that's been labelled a "protection racket" for Australia's national carrier Qantas.

Nationals Senate leader Bridget McKenzie has lodged an order to produce documents relating to Transport Minister Catherine King's decision.

Senator McKenzie wants the advice used to reject the Qatar application to be publicly released by September 13.

The coalition and a number of competition experts argue the decision will drive up ticket prices and should be investigated.

There is also a push to disallow a government move to make medicines cheaper through 60-day prescriptions, which the coalition and pharmacists argue will force businesses to the wall.

On Tuesday, NSW Liberal senator Maria Kovacic will deliver her first speech, after replacing the late Jim Molan.

Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek is expected on Wednesday to introduce reforms to the Murray Darling Basin Plan and water market changes.

The Senate will deal with a wide range of laws including improvements to parliamentary workplace safety and tighter rules to stop the Scott Morrison "secret ministry" situation from recurring.