Proposed legislation aimed at re-establishing the
Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) and placing
tougher governance obligations on unions will be the subject of a
recalled session of Parliament. If the Senate fails to pass the
legislation at the recalled session, the double dissolution card
may be played sending us off to the polls on 2 July. So, what's
it actually about?
Set to the backdrop of the Royal Commission into trade unions,
coupled with the 2012 abolition of the ABCC by the Gillard
government, the ABCC bill aims to reestablish the ABCC (which first
came about as a recommendation of an earlier Royal Commission into
the building industry) and "ensure that building work is
carried out fairly, efficiently and productively for the benefit of
all building industry participants".
The Libs claim the bills seek to "clean up" the
building and construction industry which they say has shown wilful
and deliberate non-compliance with workplace law. They argue
that's a problem when the sector is the third largest employer
in Australia employing over 1 million Australians.
Labor is less impressed with the proposed legislation, saying it
denies workers' rights of representation and confers
unnecessarily grand powers on the ABCC. The Greens and some
independent Senators think an anti-corruption watchdog should be
broad-based and not simply focused on a blue collar industry.
The ABCC would replace the current Office of the Fair Work
Building Industry Inspectorate. To combat what the Libs are calling
the drop in standards under that Inspectorate, the ABCC would be
armed with very broad coercive powers and the newly created ABCC
Commissioner would issue a Building Code.
A second new proposed law, the Fair Work (Registered
Organisations) Amendment Bill 2014 [No. 2], which has twice
been rejected by the Senate, imposes the same disclosure and
transparency obligations on union officials as those on company
directors. It also seeks to establish the Registered Organisations
Commission which will be armed with broad (too broad if you ask
half of Parliament) powers to investigate unions.
The Libs have their work cut out convincing the cross-bench to
get on board. If they don't, then the people will get a chance
to have their say. Or will Ricky Muir et al decide that a yes vote
is their meal ticket to serve out the balance of their term,
unimpeded by the recent reform of Senate voting laws.
Just another day in Parliament. Stay tuned.
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