For most people in the building and construction industry the Heydon Royal Commission’s damning findings about the appalling behaviours of the building unions, particularly the CFMEU, will come as no surprise.
The inquiry confirmed what the industry has long recognised: that there is an ingrained and institutionalised culture of unlawful behaviour in the CFMEU that creates an environment where criminality and corruption flourishes.
The extraordinary findings based on astonishing evidence and information has done much to persuade the community that the behaviours of the CFMEU are far removed from community standards and show a calculated and reckless disregard for the rule of law.
Union claims that the commission was a conspiracy or a witch-hunt are tainted and hollow. It was and still is a cowardly claim. It is a feeble attempt to hide behind the industrial veil in order to justify grossly unlawful, corrupt and immoral behaviour that should never be defended.
As contractors all around Australia know only too well from daily experiences on building sites, the only adequate solution to the institutionalised culture of corruption, criminality and unlawfulness in the building unions is a strong institutional and legislative response by the Federal Government. What is required are empowered bodies to counteract the building unions’ ingrained culture of unlawfulness and enforce higher levels of accountability and corporate governance.
That is why the industry has consistently, tirelessly and vigorously lobbied the Federal Government and the Royal Commission on behalf of our 32,000 members for the restoration of the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC).
It is also why Master Builders strongly backs the Turnbull Government’s response to the findings of the commission’s findings and recommendations, particularly its intention to put the proposed return of the ABCC to a vote in the Parliament in February and, if unsuccessful, to seek a further electoral mandate for the reform at the federal election later this year.
Without the ABCC acting as the strong cop on the beat, the building unions will continue to cheat the community out of more schools, hospitals and child care centres by driving up the cost of construction by as much as 30 per cent.
The work of a re-established ABCC should be supported by the stronger accountability regime and commitment by Employment Minister Michaelia Cash to develop a proposal for a new Registered Organisations Act and stronger regulator of registered industrial organisations.
The ABCC should be given unambiguous powers to prosecute secondary boycotts along with increased resources. Greater fines also need to be imposed to act as a further disincentive. These measures are necessary to counter an ingrained and institutionalised culture of industrial anarchy.
The challenge is now for the Parliament to stand up for the community and pass laws that can stamp out such behaviours. We must call on the Parliament to take action – failure to do so will condemn the Australian community to be forever hostage to a group of thugs who have no regard for the law and who think they are above the law.
Industry groups will continuing to lobby the Parliament, particularly the cross bench senators, to stand up for their communities and pass the laws that can stamp out such behaviours that flout the law and fly in the face of the community’s best interests.