Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says union thuggery is partly to blame for the lack of women working on construction sites.

Mr Turnbull was in Beenleigh, south of Brisbane on Wednesday, to launch a Master Builders’ initiative aimed at encouraging more women to work in construction.

The prime minister said the Advancing Women in Building and Construction Program would not only help women in a traditionally male-dominated field, but highlight other problems plaguing the industry.

“One of the important elements too, is ensuring the rule of law prevails in the construction sector,” he said.

“It’s important that workplaces are respectful and that there is an end to bullying and thuggery.

“Regrettably, the construction sector has not been one where the rule of law has prevailed everywhere.”

Mr Turnbull used the opportunity to again spruik his desire to reinstate the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC), vowing to restore the “strong cop on the beat” if re-elected.

When later asked to clarify whether the lack of an ABCC contributed to the gender imbalance on construction sites, Mr Turnbull said: “Well, certainly it hampers everybody’s access and it’s clear that it does hamper women’s access to the industry because (they shouldn’t)… be intimidated by men.”

Paynter Dixon employee Amanda Schloss, who was in her work uniform while pregnant, welcomed the initiative, particularly given female workers were being embraced in her company.

“I would definitely say don’t be afraid, don’t let the men intimidate you – confidence is the key,” she said.

“I’m pregnant and there was no fear in telling (my boss) I was pregnant; we’ve worked a strategy to return back to work.”

The federal government will provide $250,000 in funding over 12 months as part of the pilot program to help increase women’s participation and employment in the building industry.