AUSTRALIAN GREENS' DISSENTING REPORT
In considering the Building and Construction Industry (Improving
Productivity) Bill 2013 and the Building and Construction Industry
(Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2013 it is appropriate to note
the role played by the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) during
its seven years of existence.
Conduct of the ABCC
The way this body acted provides an insight into the impact these bills
could have if passed. The ABCC failed to act as independent regulator
committed to the best interests of the industry, the conditions of the workers
and the needs of legitimate employers.
This ABCC was unwilling or unable to address industry employers engaging
in illegal activities including the widespread use of misleading contracts.
Construction companies signing up workers as independent contractors instead of
hiring them as employees remains a serious issue that reduces industry
standards. For employees it means they lose basic work and safety rights.
The construction industry is one of this country’s top four most
dangerous industries. The ABCC never took an employer to court over breaches of
occupational health and safety laws. The number of deaths in the construction
industry increased during the period that the ABCC was in operation. In 2004
the number of deaths was 3.14 per 100,000 workers. In 2007 it stood at 4.8 and
in 2008 at 4.27, per 100,000 workers.
The coercive powers of the ABCC, which could subject construction
industry workers to secret interrogations and force them to answer questions
under oath, resulted in construction workers having fewer rights than other
Particular issues with the bills
Legal experts who submitted to the inquiry state the ABCC’s
investigative powers are anomalous in a modern system of industrial relations,
particularly in a nation that values political and industrial freedoms.
Other submitters pointed out that the source used by Minister the Hon. Eric Abetz
MP to allege the ABCC had enhanced industry productivity has now been so
critiqued that it cannot be considered credible.
The explanatory memorandum for the Building and Construction Industry
(Improving Productivity) Bill 2013 states that it is compatible with human
rights. However the bills have not yet been considered by the Parliamentary
Joint Committee on Human Rights or the Senate Standing Committee for the
Scrutiny of Bill, leaving their compatibility an unresolved question.
This is particularly problematic as the majority report notes at
paragraph 1.27 that 'A number of human rights are engaged by the bill,
including: the right to freedom of association, the right to just and
favourable conditions of work, the right to a fair trial, the right to peaceful
assembly, the right to freedom of expression, and the right to privacy and
The ABCC was biased in its work as it was driven by an ideological
attack on construction workers and unions. Further, in recent years Australia’s
construction industry laws have been condemned by the International Labour
Organisation six times. For these reasons the Australian Greens reject the
bills in their entirety.
The Australian Greens recommend that the Building and
Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Bill 2013 and the Building and
Construction Industry (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2013
not be passed.
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