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  • CANBERRA, AAP – An influential employer group has urged the government to forge ahead with controversial workplace reforms despite the industrial relations minister taking leave.

    Christian Porter, who is also attorney-general, decided to take time off after emphatically denying historical rape allegations.

    The coalition’s industrial relations omnibus bill is before the Senate after passing the lower house last month.

    But there is speculation the legislation will not be brought on for a vote when parliament resumes next week.

    Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox called on the government to reject calls for a delay.

    “There is no reason at all why the bill should be delayed,” he said on Monday.

    “The bill is too important for our economy, workplaces and jobs. The national interest needs to be put ahead of opportunistic calls for delay.”

    The government needs three of five crossbench senators to pass the legislation, which is fiercely opposed by Labor, unions and the Greens.

    The coalition has dumped the most contentious part of the bill, which would have given the industrial umpire more scope to allow enterprise agreements that don’t meet the better off overall test.

    But there remain key sticking points including provisions around converting from casual to permanent employment and changes to conditions.

    Mr Willox said Mr Porter oversaw the drafting of the bill after chairing working groups of industry and union representatives.

    “The bill is the culmination of nine months of hard work by government, industry and union representatives,” he said.

    “It will make a series of modest but very important amendments to the Fair Work Act that will assist the economic recovery.”

    The Australian Council of Trade Unions has warned the changes will give big business more power over workers and increase insecure employment.

    Cabinet minister Michaelia Cash is in charge of Mr Porter’s portfolios while he is on leave.

    A Senate committee is due to hand down a report on the legislation on Friday.

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