Bill to reinstate construction watchdog rejected

The Building and Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Bill was rejected by the Senate last week based on a 33 to 33 vote.

The bill would have allowed for the re-establishment of the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC), which monitored conduct within the building and construction industry before it was abolished in 2012.

Its proposed reinstatement had gained support from several industry associations seeking to address alleged trade union corruption.

Industry outcry

Australian Mines and Metals Association (AMMA) chief executive Steve Knott said it was “beyond belief” that the Senate had voted against the bill in the current environment, which was said to be rampant with rogue union behaviour, such as bribery, industrial intimidation and price fixing.

“This sends a very bad signal that our parliament is not interested in cleaning up the unlawfulness and thuggery bringing down one of Australia’s most important industries,” Knott said, adding that the current penalties for corrupt behaviour were too lenient.

“Australia needs stronger deterrents to stamp out thuggery, intimidation and illegality from our construction sector. Strong deterrents also have clear economic benefits, with the former ABCC having delivered a nine per cent productivity increase, reduced industrial action and saved consumers $7.5 billion.”

Eric Abetz, the Federal Government’s leader in the Senate and the senator that reportedly pushed for the vote on the bill, agreed that the current system was “simply not strong enough to be effective”.

“It is unfortunate that the Senate did not take the opportunity today to send a strong message to the construction industry that it has to comply with the law just like everyone else,” Abetz said.

Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox also expressed disappointment at the outcome, stating that the bill had contained “vital provisions to protect the community against unlawful conduct”.

“The Government should reintroduce the bill as soon as possible and redouble its efforts in engaging with the crossbench senators to secure their agreement to the passage of the bill,” he said. “The reforms in the bill are much too important to abandon.”

Union praise

Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) president Ged Kearney, on the other hand, commended the Senate for rejecting what she described as the Government’s “unfair laws”.

An ACTU press release claimed that the bill had been an “attack” on the rights of construction workers, stating, “The [Federal] Government’s attempt to set up anti-worker bodies like the ABCC, with coercive powers designed to intimidate safety reps and union activists, would have led to more injuries and deaths as occurred under the previous ABCC.”

Abetz confirmed the Federal Government intended to re-engage the crossbench to seek support to reintroduce the bill.

More reading
Industry supports Senate vote on construction watchdog
Construction code of practice scrapped
Mike Kane: Speaking up and speaking out
Industry backs return of watchdog
Comeback for building and construction commission

Leave a Reply

Send this to a friend