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Better wages, protections: voters want workplace reform

Nikki Short/AAP PHOTOS

Most Australians want to protect workers from wage theft and increase pay, showing the "contentious" parts of the Albanese government's workplace reform may not be so controversial among voters.

Polling by Essential Research found support for most aspects of the workplace changes has increased, despite growing lobbying efforts from business groups.

Four in five Australians agree with measures that protect workers from wage theft, while 65 per cent of respondents believe employees and labour hire workers should be paid the same if they do the same jobs.

More than two-thirds want the government to increase wages across the board, and 62 per cent want regulation for the gig economy.

A majority want the government to change workplace laws to enable unions to negotiate higher wages, up from 47 per cent previously.

More than 60 per cent of people believe big business has too much power, up from 59 per cent in July last year.

Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Sally McManus accused business leaders of delaying the reforms against the community's wishes.

"Every day of delay saves them money and costs working people," she said.

"Working Australians need support now and this should be the priority of all politicians."

The findings come a day after the crossbench lost a bid to carve out the "non-contentious" elements of the workplace bill by the end of the year.

These include protections for emergency service workers diagnosed with PTSD, for employees facing domestic violence, and expanding assistance for those who suffer from silicosis.

But when the legislation was sent to the lower house on Monday afternoon, the government voted against bringing on debate as it wants the legislation to pass in full.

Tasmanian senator Jacqui Lambie took a swipe at the government in parliament on Tuesday, saying Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke had chosen to block the passage of these bills "instead of putting his big boy pants on".

In response, cabinet minister Murray Watt said the government believed it was important to deal with all the matters in its workplace reform agenda, and not just "cherrypicked" issues.

A Senate inquiry is investigating the workplace reforms, but is not set to hand down its report until February.

The bill is due for debate in early 2024.