A key building and construction industry group in Australia has welcomed a Coalition policy to restore the powers of the former regulator for industrial relations in the building industry if it wins the election but slammed the Labor party's stance that it will not take this step.

In a statement, Master Builders Australia chief executive officer Wilhelm Harnisch has thrown his organisation’s support behind Coalition moves to reinstate the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC).

He says union behaviour during industrial disputes at the Myer Emporium site in Melbourne and the Brisbane Children’s Hospital site last year was evidence unlawful behaviour had returned since the ABCC’s abolition last year.

“Master Builders believes the pendulum in industrial relations has swung too far has swung too far in favour of unions since the ABCC was abolished in June 2012,” Harnisch said. “Appalling recent instances of industrial thuggery by building unions in Victoria and Queensland are evidence of this.”

Within the building industry, the regulation of industrial relations has emerged as a key election issue, with industry groups wanting the restoration of the ABCC but unions, who say the former regulator had excessive power and lacked accountability, stringently opposed to this.

Wilhelm Harnisch

Master Builders CEO Wilhelm Harnisch

While the Coalition has promised to restore the former building regulator if it wins office, the Labor Party says it will not do so.

In a letter to Master Builders outlining its response to the building group’s Strong Building, Strong Economy campaign, the government says it had a ‘strong electoral mandate’ to abolish the Commission, and that the ABCC had been replaced by ‘more effective arrangements’ through its replacement body Fair Work Building and Construction, which had the full suite of powers to deal with unlawful behaviour from any party.

Harnisch, however, disagrees, saying the demise of the ABCC had precipitated a return to unlawful behaviour, and that presented with a clear choice, Master Builders strongly endorsed the Coalition policy and called on Labour to reconsider its position.

“In reality the FWBC is all bark and no bite,” he said.

Harnisch’s call follows the release last week by Master Builders of a report which claims that through greater productivity and better industrial relations practices, Australian consumers were $7.5 billion dollars better off on an annual basis when the ABCC was in place.