ABCC ‘needed to fight union thugs’: Abetz

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ABCC ‘needed to fight union thugs’: Abetz

The Federal Government has tabled legislation to abolish the ABCC and replace it with an agency, rousing employer groups and the Opposition to make a last-ditch effort to save the construction industry watchdog.

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The Federal Government has tabled legislation to abolish the ABCC and replace it with an agency, rousing employer groups and the Opposition to make a last-ditch effort to save the construction industry watchdog.

Master Builders Australia CEO, Wilhelm Harnisch, said the ABCC had delivered sustained and substantial productivity gains to the industry and to the community.
 
‘Sadly unlawful industrial behaviour still persists in the commercial building industry and cannot be condoned or accepted as normal,’ he said.

$2.5m in penalties
 
‘The recent release of the ABCC’s Annual Report showed that courts during the last financial year imposed more than $2.5 million in penalties with the unacceptable practice of coercion accounting for just on two-thirds of the amount imposed during the year.’

Harnisch said it was noteworthy that the ABCC secured a record workplace relations penalty of over $1.3m in the context of the protracted union demarcation dispute that occurred in 2009 at the Westgate Bridge strengthening project.

‘The Parliament cannot ignore such court findings and convictions and should not agree to any watering down of the current powers,’ he said.

‘Repealing the industry-specific laws sends the wrong message when there is still more work to be done in the industry to impose the rule of law.’

Green light
 
‘The proposed agency with fewer powers and much reduced fines of only one-third of the current maximum will only give the green light to building unions to continue to engage in unlawful industrial behaviour.’

The National Electrical and Communications Association (NECA) chief executive officer, James Tinslay, said the ABCC is achieving good results and its powers are needed in the building and construction industry to stamp out unlawful behaviour.

‘The ABCC has been effective in cleaning up the building industry and it is a step in the wrong direction if the Government continues with plans to rip it apart,’ he said.

‘With the sharpening increase of union activity in recent weeks, it is clear that the building industry will not be immune and the regulator still has plenty of work to do. It is worrying for electrical contractors and others in the building industry not to have an independent regulator.’

Lawlessness
 
‘Lawlessness is still exhibited in the industry today but the ABCC has been effective in removing the worst instances. Removing the ABCC or emasculating its powers will see increased inappropriate behaviour and this will lead to the costs of projects blowing out and delays in construction.’

Opposition IR spokesman Eric Abetz said replacing the ABCC with an agency in the FW Ombudsman’s office would leave workers unprotected and unleash industrial unrest on worksites around Australia.

He said the ABCC ‘has been instrumental in curbing thuggery, illegal industrial action and lawlessness in the construction industry’.

‘By keeping disputes to a minimum the ABCC has helped to increase productivity and lower construction costs around Australia while ensuring safe and harmonious working environments for workers,’ Abetz said.

‘Make no mistake, this Bill will mean unrest on building and construction sites right around Australia and a return to the 1970s with the union thugs in charge of what gets built and when depending on the size of the bribe.’
 
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