It’s good news for those who’ve been pushing for the renewal of the Australian Building and Construction Commission, as Senate has approved the bill.
Many in the building sector are celebrating the passing of legislation which restores the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC).
The federal government has reached an agreement to set up a watchdog for the construction industry, after a long struggle in parliament.
Supporters say the watchdog will uphold workplace laws and impose tougher penalties, to improve productivity and encourage fairer competition for contracts.
“The restoration of the ABCC should greatly assist in normalising workplace behaviours on Australia’s construction sites,” said Wilhelm Harnisch, CEO of Master Builders Australia.
“Construction workers, small subcontractors and everyone else in the supply chain can have the confidence of going to work every day without fear of being intimidated and bullied,” he said.
The Senate passed the bill on the 30th of November, with the final vote sitting at 36 to 33. It hasn’t been easy for the government to reach this point. The Senate has rejected the bill three times over the years, triggering the double dissolution election in July 2016.
A brief history of the ABCC:
The watchdog was first set up in October 2005, but it was later scrapped by the Gillard government in February 2012.
The original ABCC monitored the sector and enforced civil workplace laws. It was replaced by the Fair Work Building and Construction (FWBC), which had less powers than the ABCC, and has now ceased operating, to make way for the new bill.
Why was parliament so divided over reinstating the ABCC?
The Coalition’s push to reinstate the bill sparked heated debate in the government, with the Greens and Labor opposing it because they fear the changes will give the watchdog coercive powers, with poor oversight and accountability.
This is because the ABCC has powers that aren’t held by any other industry regulator, including the right to subject people to compulsory interrogations, under the threat of imprisonment.
But supporters say the construction industry can only benefit from the watchdog – pointing to increased productivity levels under the previous ABCC. They also say the watchdog will keep the powerful Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) accountable.
Next week we’ll take a closer look at the key amendments that have been made – what does this mean for the building sector?