Master Builders say case for construction watchdog remains strong

MASTER BUILDERS Australia has acknowledged that the Federal Government’s announcement of changes to the Building Code result from it taking its policy to abolish the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) to the electorate at the recent Federal Election.

Master Builders Australia CEO Denita Wawn said she was also cognizant that the Federal Government has not yet released the detail of the regulatory framework that it plans to put in place for the industry going forward.

“However, we continue to call on the government not to depart from decades of bipartisan recognition that the building and construction industry requires industry specific regulation and oversight,” Ms Wawn said. 

“This is particularly important at this precarious time for our economy and people’s standard of living when all Federal Government action should be about fighting inflation, protecting growth, and boosting productivity.  Leaving the construction sector without a specialist regulator will fail this test.

“Abolishing the ABCC cannot be separated from the economy and economic management. Making changes to the industrial relations system is one of the strongest economic levers that any government has at its disposal and abolishing the construction industry watchdog will have substantial negative flow on effects,” Ms Wawn said.

“Economic modelling by EY has found that scrapping a specialist construction regulator will drive up inflation just when the Reserve Bank is increasing interest rates to tackle inflation and will result in a reduction in economic activity by $47.5 billion by 2030.

“It also found that it will drive up the cost of constructing the substantial pipeline of infrastructure including health, defence, aged care, and transport projects costing taxpayers in the order of $9.5 billion by 2029 and result in an estimated reduction in investment in infrastructure of $45.6 billion by 2030,” Ms Wawn said.

“When the Rudd Government commissioned the late Murray Willcox AO QC to inquire into the creation of specialist regulatory division for building and construction work the Willcox Report found that “the ABCC’s work is not yet done” and recommended a specialist construction regulatory agency which retained many of the powers of the ABCC.

“We understand this action by the Rudd Government caused intense resentment in the union movement, but the retention of a specialist construction industry regulator was the right public policy response then and remains so now,” Ms Wawn said.

“Going back decades Labor and Coalition governments at a state and federal level have implemented industry specific measures aimed at improving the performance of the construction industry.

“Tackling the extreme militancy found only in construction unions has also received long standing bipartisan support. It was Labor Governments at the federal and state level which abolished the notorious Builders Labourers Federation,” Ms Wawn said.

“These measures were not focussed on discouraging the flying of construction union flags on construction sites but responded to the overwhelming evidence that construction unions use unlawful industrial tactics to bully, intimidate and coerce people working in the construction industry to sign up to union deals,” she said.

“The critics of the ABCC cannot simply ignore the continuous succession of Federal Court judgements documenting this reality.

“Master Builders welcomes the government’s announcement that litigation commenced by the ABCC will be managed by the Fair Work Ombudsman,” she said.

“Importantly, the government deserves commendation for its recognition of the vital role that the Office of the Federal Safety Commissioner plays in improving safety culture and outcomes in the construction industry,” Ms Wawn said.

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