Industrial relations laws in the building and construction
industry have again become a topic of highly charged and
politicised national debate, with the current Government seeking to
reinstate the Australian Building and Construction Commission
(ABCC). As we found out recently the failure of the Senate to pass
the bill re-introducing the ABCC was the trigger for the Government
announcing a double dissolution election to be held in July of this
What is the ABCC?
The ABCC was established by the Howard government in 2005 in
response to recommendation made in the report of the Cole Royal
Commission into the building and construction industry, which
identified widespread disrespect for, disregard of and breach of
the law and the "lack of power and resources existing
regulatory bodies had to enforce the law." By the passing of
the Building and Construction Industry Improvement Act 2005, the
ABCC was created and empowered to monitor, investigate and enforce
breaches by building industry participants of federal industrial
law, enterprise agreements and relevant building codes, and sought
to improve the productivity of the industry.
Abolishment of the ABCC
In 2012, following the re-election of the Labor Government, the
ABCC was abolished and replaced with a new construction industry
regulator, the Fair Work Building and Construction (FWBC). The FWBC
brought the building and construction industry under the
Commonwealth's Fair Work regime, reducing the scope of the
investigative and enforcement powers given to the ABCC - including
reduced penalties for industrial action.
Possible reinstatement of the ABCC
Following the Hayden Royal Commission into Union Corruption in
April 2016, the current Government sought to reintroduce a bill
re-establishing the ABCC; restoring its powers under the Act,
Prohibiting the coercion of persons in relation to the
engagement of contractors and employees, and coercion in relation
to industrial instruments
The ability to commence civil penalty proceedings against
individuals or organisations who engaged in unlawful industrial
action and unlawful picketing
Power compelling a person to provide the Commissioner with
information or document required by its investigations relating to
suspected contravention of the of relevant act or a designated
The ability for an inspector to enter and inspect premises, and
interview any person.
At this stage, the reinstatement of the ABCC is in limbo,
pending the election outcome. If the current Government is
re-elected on 2 July, along with the number required to pass the
bill in the Senate, the ABCC will no doubt replace its predecessor,
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