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Govt takes another crack at building watchdog bill


The Federal Government is making another attempt to target union corruption in the construction sector after it used rejected legislation to trigger July’s double-dissolution election.

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Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull today reintroduced a bill to restore the Howard-government-era Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC), twice rejected by the previous parliament.

“We have a clear mandate to proceed with our election commitment,” he told parliament.

Two royal commissions had identified illegal behaviour in the sector and the case for establishing the ABCC was stronger now than when the bill was first introduced.

“For too many years, the industry has provided the worst examples of illegal industrial behaviour, unnecessary disruption and unrest,” Turnbull said.

“The industry is still marred by illegal strikes, constant bullying, intimidation and thuggery.”

The sector was the nation’s third-largest employer and one in every 10 Australian workers relied on it for jobs and income.

The Government remained committed to cracking down on lawlessness and improving safety, the Prime Minister said.

He rejected suggestions by MPs in the previous parliament the bill would deny workers human rights, describing them as “not only far-fetched and fanciful but offensive”.

Every employee deserved to go to work without fear of being harassed, intimidated or subjected to violence.

“When the laws aren’t strong enough to deter unlawful behaviour, something is wrong and something needs to be done,” Turnbull said.

The legislation allows the courts to hand significant penalties to individuals and companies involved in illegal actions.

The ABCC would administer a building code for government-funded projects to ensure enterprise bargaining arrangements were fair and used taxpayer dollars wisely.

The commission’s powers – which include forcing people to hand over information – would be reviewed and reported by the commonwealth ombudsman and the federal safety commissioner would be retained.

Turnbull said statistics showed productivity in the industry improved by 20 per cent when the ABCC was previously in operation.

“Taxpayers, consumers, small businesses and workers will all benefit from the re-establishment of the ABCC.”

The Prime Minister also introduced a second bill used to trigger the double dissolution election, which also imposes tougher governance rules on unions and their officials.

The bill would establish the Registered Organisations Commission with investigation and regulation powers and was rejected several times in the previous parliament.


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