Fielding to insist on tougher powers for building watchdog

News

Fielding to insist on tougher powers for building watchdog

The Federal Government is facing a difficult time in getting its replacement legislation for the ABCC through the Senate, with Family First Senator Steve Fielding insisting on five amendments that will be unacceptable to unions and much of the ALP back bench.

WantToReadMore

Get unlimited access to all of our content.

The Federal Government is facing a difficult time in getting its replacement legislation for the ABCC through the Senate, with Family First Senator Steve Fielding insisting on five amendments that will be unacceptable to unions and much of the ALP back bench.
 
Fielding said this week that he will not support the legislation ‘unless all five issues are addressed’.
 
The government needs the support of the Greens and both independents to get its legislation through the Senate because the Opposition has vowed to oppose it.
 
Five amendments
 
Fielding’s amendments would:
  • delete the provisions allowing the off coercive powers to be ‘switched off’ on sites with good IR records
  • remove the five-year sunset clause on the coercive powers (at which point they would be reviewed)
  • restore the higher fines for unlawful industrial action in the construction industry to $110,000 for organisations and $22,000 for individuals (the Bill cuts them to $33,000 and $6600 respectively)
  • allow for employers to obtain an injunction against unions and workers where unlawful industrial action is ‘occurring, threatened, impending or probable’
  • give greater independence to the new inspectorate and clarify its functions.
 
Economic cost
 
Fielding said the government’s plans to replace the ABCC with a more restrained inspectorate could imperil infrastructure spending and recovery in the construction sector.
 
‘We’re spending billions of dollars on infrastructure and at the same the government is talking about watering down the ABCC,’ he said.
 
‘This will cost the economy an enormous amount if we get this wrong. This is the wrong time to weaken the ABCC.’
 
Senator Xenophon and the Greens are still considering amendments to the Bill, and the matter is further complicated by the fact that the Senate inquiry into the legislation is due to bring down its report tomorrow (Thursday).
 
One rule for all
 
The Greens, the union movement and many Labor MPs oppose special rules and penalties for workers in the construction industry, believing they should be treated the same as other workers.
 
However, employer groups are strong backers of the ABCC and have opposed any softening of its powers in a new FWA inspectorate.
 
Fielding said the inspectorate needed tough powers to tackle unlawful activity, pointing to recent industrial disputes in Melbourne.
 
‘What happened on the Westgate Freeway is a joke, what happened on the Royal Children’s Hospital is a joke,’ he said.
 
‘When I go to work, I don’t expect to be bullied. Why do we expect that to happen on construction sites?’
 
Post details