ABCC abolition Bill to be tabled

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ABCC abolition Bill to be tabled

Legislation to abolish the controversial Australian Building and Construction Commission will be introduced into Federal Parliament in the next few weeks.

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Legislation to abolish the controversial Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) will be introduced into Federal Parliament in the next few weeks.
 
The Building and Construction Industry Improvement Amendment (Transition to Fair Work) Bill will close the ABCC and create a new agency under Fair Work Australia.
 
The Bill removes a range of industry-specific regulations, including laws that provide higher penalties for breaches of industrial laws and broader circumstances under which industrial action attracts penalties.
 
It will also introduce safeguards in relation to the use of the power to compulsorily obtain information or documents.
 
The introduction of the Bill was delayed last year, amid a backlog of legislation to get through Parliament. The new FWA inspectorate to replace the ABCC was due to come into operation on 1 February this year, but its new start date is now unclear.
 
Lloyd leaves
 
The move comes as the ABCC head, John Lloyd, steps down from the role today.
 
Appointed as the first ABCC Commissioner, Lloyd oversaw the establishment of the agency under the Howard Government in response to the Cole Commission inquiry into the construction industry.
 
Lloyd said the Commission has made an ‘important’ contribution to the industry.
 
‘The industry was plagued by unlawful conduct, wildcat strikes and intimidatory industrial tactics,’ he said.
 
‘Conduct, efficiency and productivity have improved since the ABCC was established.’
 
‘The ABCC has restored stability and certainty to an industry that was characterised as the “law of the jungle”.’
 
No tears from unions
 
Unions are shedding no tears with Lloyd’s departure, saying it ‘clears the way’ for the abolition of the much-hated ABCC.
 
ACTU secretary Jeff Lawrence said the Commission has been an ‘abject failure’ and has led to poorer safety standards in the industry.
 
‘Under John Lloyd the ABCC engaged in politically partisan behaviour that is inconsistent with its obligations as a statutory body,’ Lawrence said.
 
‘Any pretence of fairness was long discarded under Mr Lloyd’s tenure. His legacy will be an ordinary building worker, Ark Tribe, facing the prospect of jail simply for exercising his right to silence.’
 
‘The end of his term today is an appropriate time for the Government to begin abolishing the ABCC, which is one of the final remnants of WorkChoices still standing.’
 
ABCC unfair and unsafe
 
Lawrence said a report by the International Labour Organisation earlier this year found that the ABCC was likely to be in breach of a number of international labour standards, including freedom of association, the right to organise and collective bargaining.
 
‘Industrial laws are intended to protect the rights of workers, not undermine them,’ Lawrence said.
 
‘The priorities of the ABCC should be to strengthen workplace health and safety in the building industry, and to stamp out dodgy contractors who avoid their obligations to employees and to the tax system.’
 
‘But overwhelmingly, the ABCC has investigated and prosecuted workers for exercising their rights rather than employers.’
 
Lawrence added that both the injury and fatality rates in the construction industry are much higher than for all industries — the death rate is twice that of the rest of the workforce.
 
‘The ABCC has wasted millions of dollars while health and safety in the industry has not improved. There should be one set of laws for all workers, regardless of the industry they work in,’ he said.
 
‘The Federal Parliament must vote to abolish the coercive powers that impinge upon civil liberties and the right to be members of a union.’
 
The legislation is proposed for introduction during the Spring sittings of Federal Parliament that run from 28 September to 25 November 2010.
 
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