New claims of bribery and kickbacks in the construction sector underline the need for the return of a tough industry watchdog, the Abbott government says.

Employment Minister Eric Abetz has seized on reports of Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) corruption, saying the Australian people want the industry cleaned up.

A joint ABC-Fairfax Media investigation claims union officials are making corrupt deals to help companies linked to organised crime secure construction contracts.

Eric Abetz

Eric Abetz

Victoria’s desalination plant and the Barangaroo development in Sydney are among a number of projects that companies connected to major crime figures are reportedly involved in.

“The construction industry has had an unfortunate history of corruption, illegality, thuggery and standover tactics,” Senator Abetz told AAP on Tuesday.

The reports show corruption is still ingrained and there is a pressing need for the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) to be re-established, he said.

The commission was replaced with a Fair Work inspectorate by the former Labor government, and Labor and the Greens are now blocking legislation for the new ABCC in the Senate.

“The ALP simply simply no longer has any feathers to fly with in opposing the re-establishment of the ABCC,” Senator Abetz said.

CFMEU national secretary Dave Noonan wants a full police investigation of any allegations.

“If the leadership of the CFMEU is made aware of improper, illegal, corrupt or criminal activity by any official of the union, we act immediately,” he said in a statement.

The union has terminated the employment of officials who have engaged in such activity in the past and would not hesitate to do so again, he said.

Mr Noonan said the CFMEU had recently adopted new governance rules for its officials.

Labor frontbencher Jason Clare said anyone breaking the law “should have the book thrown at them” and called for the allegations to be referred to police and the Fair Work Commission.

Melbourne identity Mick Gatto has denied being involved in corrupt building industry dealings.

The ABC-Fairfax report alleges a Comanchero bikie pays Mr Gatto to get his firm an agreement with the Victorian building union so it can work on building sites.

Mr Gatto says the report is wrong.

Queensland Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie says similar complaints have been made in his state and investigations are ongoing.

“This is about cleaning up the industry,” he told ABC radio.

“I think that any union would be kidding themselves to think that if it’s happening to an extent in New South Wales and Victoria and not happening in Queensland.

“They’d be living under a rock.”

  • It is time for the ALP and Greens (what has this got to do with them anyway) to get out of the way and let the ABCC be re-established. TThere is a desperate need to re-create the conditions of industrial harmony and economic prosperity that preceded Labours' meddling.

  • Are we to believe that the corruption is confined to a small number of rogue contractors? Or is it more realistic to believe that corruption is endemic to the construction industry? Why is the award of contracts so concentrated on a handful of contractors? You can be sure that any whistle blowers are quickly extinguished. The large contractors are often colluding to exclude competition in the industry. On a project the size and complexity of Barangaroo engagement with government is at many levels. To get a project off the ground a developer may have been dealing with local council's, state and federal bureaucrats for many years. So much easier to grease the palms of commerce and intervene directly? Contractors who are convicted of corrupt payments and activities should be precluded from government contracts for 5 or more years, that may assist in discouraging corrupt conduct as in the US.

    With the huge number of recent retrenchments as the industry consolidates, is it time for a new compact with employees? Who would suggest that the instability and turmoil of the construction industry makes it a career path which is worthy of pursuit? We have had many apprentice positions revoked in recent months as well. Whilst activity in the sector shows sign of improvement, this is coming off a very low base, and no where near the pre GFC activity level. Periodic unemployment or under deployment is accepted as par for the course, when things improve employees will not be remunerated to compensate for this, these large firms are poised to press the federal government to increase skilled migration, so that wages growth can never make up for the previous inactivity.

    • Employers never get anything their way. Not even at the BAIADA Chicken factories, and workers there are treated like cattle, where workers get decapitated for 10 bucks an hour or less! All the Investment Bankers in the LNP who point the finger at wages and conditions wouldn't dream of working as a cleaner in such a brutal facility. The Liberals have become extreme Right here and in the UK. They deliberately have left out contractors in their 100 mill royal commission, they have hired a right wing conservative judge, time for the ALP to step aside? what? they are hardly even putting up a fight goddamit! And its still not enough! Did the unions cause havoc and go on strike, throw their weight around while labor where in office? No! As for Craig Thompson and the head of the HSU, of course they are guilty! Only the union movement is the one which is paying a far higher price for their guilt you wouldn't get anything like this kind of payback if it was an employer, no way. Does it sound feasible that all corruption comes from the unions and like, NONE from employers and business? Of course not! but the LNP and the head kickers that back them couldn't care less, they are on an anti worker witch hunt and that is all that matters. This is how the business sector repays workers and the unions for what has been for years mostly cooperation and restraint on their part, Thompson and the HSU was the exception, not the rule but that doesn't stop the hoards of scrooges out their doing their best to suggest otherwise. BTW the ACCC is not a business watchdog and the LIBS know that.

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