ACCI calls on Senate to block ABCC changes


ACCI calls on Senate to block ABCC changes

A leading employer organisation has called on the Senate to block legislation that abolishes the ABCC and replaces it with a construction industry watchdog with softer powers.


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A leading employer organisation has called on the Senate to block legislation that abolishes the ABCC and replaces it with a construction industry watchdog with softer powers.
The Coalition is certain to oppose the legislation — meaning only one of the independent Senators is needed to block the legislation. Both Senator Nick Xenaphon and Senator Steve Fielding have expressed some concerns about the legislation and at least one is expected to vote against it.
Threatens reform agenda
The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) says the legislation has the potential to 'reverse the achievements that have so far been made, and threaten the important reform agenda of achieving, once and for all, lasting cultural change for the industry'.
Greg Evans, ACCI acting chief executive, says the targeted laws were not part of WorkChoices and were the culmination of an extensive Royal Commission into the industry that looked at conduct by all participants, not just unions.
Widespread unlawfulness
He said the 200 specific recommendations for legislative reform were designed to tackle the widespread unlawfulness and 'disregard of the rule of law'.
'The legislation, if passed by parliament, would essentially gut the most potent and effective provisions in the existing framework — provisions that deal effectively with unlawful wildcat strike action, coercion and duress,' Evans said.
He said ACCI does not support proposals that would:
  • remove existing unlawful industrial action and penalty provisions
  • remove the current ability for a successful party to recoup legal costs
  • automatically repeal the coercive powers after five years, which appears to pre-empt an inquiry into the issue
  • place strictures on exercising coercive powers where similar Commonwealth regulators do not have similar 'safeguards' or oversight mechanisms.
ACCI also raises legal questions about the ability for Parliament to delegate its powers to allow an 'assessor' to switch off vital coercive investigation powers for a building project.
High price
'In light of the Government's expenditure on national infrastructure projects, proposed changes that add substantial costs and lead to potential industrial unrest will come at a high price for the community,' Evans said.
'There are still problems in the industry which require tough laws as illustrated by a recent Federal Court case, where it stated in its decision that the union's breach of an order the very same day it was issued, 'reflects the cavalier attitude taken by the CFMEU to the Order and the Court'.
'Following a Royal Commission into the issue and countless examples of the ABCC's success to date, ACCI does not consider the case has been made to change the existing laws.'
Unions have missed deadline: Keenan
Meanwhile, Opposition IR spokesman Michael Keenan claims the union movement has missed a deadline to make a submission to a gGovernment inquiry on the matter.
'They keep saying that the ABCC must be killed off as soon as possible and is an urgent matter,' he said.
'Yet when the time comes for make a formal submission to a Senate Inquiry, they have missed the deadline. So much for this being a matter of urgency.'
Keenan noted that industry groups, governments and other interested observers have complied with the Inquiry timelines and made submissions; however, not one single union submission has apparently been received.
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