Government Attempts to Resurrect Building Watchdog

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Thursday, January 28th, 2016
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The federal government is making a fresh bid to reinstate the building industry watchdog by allowing crossbench senators to see a secret report on union corruption.

The opposition, the Greens and some crossbenchers have consistently blocked the coalition’s attempt to restore the Australian Building and Construction Commission after the previous Labor government abolished it.

Employment Minister Michaelia Cash intends to reintroduce legislation when parliament returns for the year.

In a bid to win over crossbench senators, they will be shown confidential sections of the Heydon unions royal commission report.

“(Crossbenchers) have stated that they would like to view those reports as part of their deliberations on the bill and the government has agreed to that request,” Senator Cash told reporters in Canberra.

The minister said she understood the main sticking point among senators such as Glenn Lazarus, Jacqui Lambie and Ricky Muir was why the government was targeting a specific industry.

“This is an industry that the Cole royal commission and now the Heydon royal commission have recognised as being very unique in relation to non-compliance with workplace laws,” she said.

“This is an industry that does need a specialist regulator.”

Senator Cash said under the ABCC – established by the Howard government – the number of days lost to industrial action fell and productivity increased.

The government was not targeting unions but rather “a system that ultimately betrays the workers and the Australian people”.

“No one in Australia should ever have to pay for industrial peace,” she said.

There were benefits for construction companies in that if they do not comply with the government’s building code, which is dependent on the ABCC laws, they won’t qualify for contracts, the minister said.

Labor argues having a separate body for the construction industry is a waste of money and creates two sets of industrial rules.

The opposition has proposed stronger civil penalties for law breaches and better protection for anti-corruption whistleblowers.

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