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New procurement rules in exchange for ABCC

AAP logoAAP 29/11/2016 Belinda Merhab

Malcolm Turnbull looks set to receive a building industry watchdog for Christmas but the Senate is determined to make him wait a little longer for his gift.

The election-triggering ABCC legislation is closer to finally passing the upper house after the government agreed to a string of demands from the Senate crossbench on Tuesday night - including a new set of commonwealth procurement rules.

The new rules, tabled in parliament by Finance Minister Mathias Cormann and due to come into effect on March 1, will require commonwealth officials to consider the economic benefit to Australia of any procurement above $4 million.

Senator Cormann said while free trade agreements required Australia not engage in prejudicial decision making, they did not preclude it from appropriately gathering information and looking at the economic effects of a procurement.

The new rules also require entities make reasonable inquiries to ensure goods and services comply with Australian or international standards.

Officials must also consider the tenderers' practices around environment and ethical employment practices, like child labour.

The instrument is not disallowable - meaning it can't be overturned by the Senate.

"This is a big deal," crossbench senator Nick Xenophon told parliament.

"This is a significant, massive change to procurement rules in this country."

Labor and the Greens oppose the re-establishment of the ABCC, but managed a win when they got the support of One Nation to amend the legislation to ensure employers try to fill building jobs with Australian workers.

The government needs the support of eight crossbenchers to pass the legislation.

David Leyonhjelm and three One Nation senators have already pledged support and the government agreed to a string of amendments during yet another late night debate on the controversial legislation in a bid to secure the support of Senators Rod Culleton, Derryn Hinch and the three Xenophon senators.

The amendments establish a working group to monitor the impact the ABCC has on security of payments, and make decisions of the ABCC subject to judicial review.

Greens senator Nick McKim signalled a fight to the bitter end.

"Make no mistake, it's not going to pass tonight," he told the chamber before the Senate adjourned at midnight.

"We will have two sitting days left, the government will get more and more panicked."

Greens colleague Rachel Siewert predicted the ABCC would be overturned again, like the Howard government's Workchoices.

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