Employers welcome hint that ABCC coercive powers will remain

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Employers welcome hint that ABCC coercive powers will remain

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) has welcomed indications from the Federal Government that the coercive powers of the ABCC will be retained in its replacement body under Fair Work Australia.

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The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) has welcomed indications from the Federal Government that the coercive powers of the ABCC will be retained in its replacement body under Fair Work Australia.
 
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd yesterday vowed to keep a watchdog over the construction industry because of ‘improper behaviour’ by construction unions.
 
Rudd told ABC radio the Government had a mandate for retaining a body to control the construction industry, including its controversial coercive powers.
 
‘I take absolutely seriously my commitment to the Australian people prior to the last election,’ he told 3AW radio.
 
‘We were very explicit about it. We did not say at the time that we would be abolishing the function all together, and we intend to abide by our pre-election promise.’
 
‘Are our friends in the trade movement saying that there have been no problems of improper behaviour in various parts of the construction industry in Victoria and Western Australia?’
 
Rudd also told Sky News: ‘You'd have to be Blind Freddy not to conclude that there have been historical problems, most particularly in the Victoria and West Australian divisions of the construction division of the CFMEU.’
 
‘Very attentive’ to Wilcox report
 
He said he was ‘very attentive’ to what Murray Wilcox QC said in his report on the ABCC and the construction industry.
 
‘He is a person of sober judgment and therefore we have to be attentive to the advice that he’s provided us,’ Rudd said.
 
Wilcox has recommended that the coercive powers be kept for five years and then reviewed.
 
Greg Evans, ACCI acting chief executive, said the recent report by Justice Wilcox QC found that ‘there is still a level of industrial unlawfulness in the building and construction industry' and recommended that the coercive powers remain.
 
He said ACCI strongly supports the retention of a stand-alone body to regulate industrial relations in the construction industry.
 
Cultural change
 
Evans said the ABCC, the Building Construction and Industry Improvement Act 2005, and the Government Procurement Guidelines are working to implement long lasting cultural change in this vital sector. These separate industrial relations arrangements were recommended by a Royal Commission.
 
‘Whilst the retention of the coercive powers is vital, there are also serious risks associated with weakening the industry’s separate regulatory arrangements, particularly in the context of the Government’s $22 billion expenditure on national infrastructure projects,’ Evans said.
 
Continuing contribution from ABCC
 
He said a recent independent Econtech report, Economic Analysis of Building and Construction Industry Productivity: 2009, highlights the continuing contribution the ABCC and underpinning laws have had in the industry, including: 
  • a 1.5% increase in GDP; 
  • a 1.2% lowering of CPI; and
  • improved consumer living standards reflected in an annual economic welfare gain of $5.1 billion.
‘The ABCC’s statutory mandate is to enforce the law equally against employers, employees, and their representatives,’ Evans said.
 
‘The test of the Government’s new specialist division will be whether it can not only deliver the significant improvements that the ABCC has delivered, but build on that to ensure long lasting and permanent cultural change is achieved in the industry.
 
‘This can only happen if the Government’s new "strong cop on the beat" is thoroughly independent, and possesses tough laws and enforcement powers that will allow it to enforce the rule of law for all building industry participants.’
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