Senior Labor senator Stephen Conroy has invoked the ghost of Sir John Kerr, likening a recall of parliament to the dismissal of the Whitlam government.
Parliament has been prorogued mid-session in a constitutional move not used for 40 years.
Governor-General Peter Cosgrove on Monday told a joint sitting of parliament’s two chambers that MPs and senators would consider Turnbull government bills restoring the building industry watchdog and imposing tougher governance rules on trade unions.
Senator Conroy described the recall of parliament as a travesty of democracy, likening it to the 1975 dismissal of the Whitlam government by then governor-general Kerr.
He accused Sir Peter of overturning the will of the Senate in a tawdry political stunt that demeaned his office.
“The ghost of Sir John Kerr has crawled and reached out from the grave to interfere in a democratically-elected Senate decision,” Senator Conroy told parliament.
“Never in modern history has a government prorogued a parliament to obtain a political advantage and that is what this government has done.”
Never had the need for a republic been more evidenced, Senator Conroy said.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has declared the legislation will be used as a trigger for a double-dissolution election on July 2 if the Senate rejects the bills.
Sir Peter said he was recalling parliament so the fate of the bills could be decided without further delay.
“My government regards these measures as essential for the rule of law in our workplaces,” he told the joint sitting.
“My government also regards these measures as crucial to its economic plan for promoting jobs and growth, and managing the transition of our economy from one reliant on the mining construction boom to a more diversified economy.”
Attorney-General George Brandis said the upper house had repeatedly employed delaying tactics to avoid debating the bills, sending the legislation off for inquiry by numerous committees.
“The time has come for the Senate to procrastinate no longer, to delay no longer and to come to a conclusion on these bills,” he told parliament.
He also urged the Senate to support the government’s move to abolish the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal.
If legislation to abolish the tribunal comes before the Senate while it is debating bills to restore the building industry watchdog, the government was prepared to temporarily adjourn debate on the Australian Building and Construction Commission, he said.
The Senate has resumed debate on the ABCC bills.