Last week, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced a double dissolution election for early July, following the rejection of the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) Bill by the Senate.
The bill, which was first created in 2005 by the Howard government and later abolished by the Gillard government, is said to have given the building and construction industry a higher level of power than the police. The legislation affected anyone who worked in the construction industry from truck drivers to manufacturers.
Designed to reduce corruption within the industry, nearly 75% of examination notices were issued to employees that placed them before secret tribunals, making it a criminal offense if they refused, which could land said worker in jail for up to six months. While this may seem alarming, it’s important to know that anyone found to be resisting questions from the Australian Crime Commission is committing an offense, making this standard protocol.
Other claims by the opposition suggest that workers weren’t given the right to choose their own legal representation. This was cleared up in 2006 when Federal Court Judge Anthony Besanko found that the ABCC can exclude particular lawyers, although only on reasonable grounds such as their choice of lawyer prejudicing the ability of the ABCC to carry out its investigation.
Turnbull and a Senate Committee Report of December 2013 state that the reintroduction of the ABCC bill will increase productivity and hold workers accountable for crimes committed on construction sites, but those who oppose say that this isn’t the case at all and insist that it will cause a downturn in productivity. Turnbull also suggested it will decrease the amount of union corruption, but the ABCC only has jurisdiction over industrial disputes between employers and their staff.
The opposition, which includes the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, also states that the bill will hinder the ability of young people and older workers to obtain work in the industry and make it easier to bring in overseas workers, while also making construction sites more unsafe.
The calling of an election over the ABCC shows just how complex it is and it will be up to the people to make their decision on the first weekend of July.