A strong and effective watchdog for the building industry

Media Release
  • Minister for Employment
  • Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service
  • Leader of the Government in the Senate

A powerful, independent regulator will be revived to reform Australia’s building industry and maintain the rule of law in the sector, under a Bill introduced to Federal Parliament today.

Minister for Employment Eric Abetz said the Building and Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Bill 2013 would re-establish the Australian Building and Construction Commission to stamp out lawlessness and improve productivity on building sites.

“Workers deserve to be able to go to work each day without the fear of being harassed, intimidated or the subject of violence,” Senator Abetz said.

“The former Labor Government undermined confidence in the building and construction industry. Abolishing the Australian Building and Construction Commission under union pressure has seen a return to lawlessness and an increase in the number of days where work is simply not being done in the industry.

“Australia cannot afford to have a building and construction industry which is inefficient and unstable. The restoration of the ABCC and the code which supports its work is a critical reform for Australia.”

The Bill makes it clear that unlawful action will not be tolerated and there are significant penalties for taking unlawful industrial action, or for engaging in or organising an unlawful picket.

Safeguards are built into the legislation which ensure that the ABCC is able to separate legitimate protests from unlawful and organised picketing aimed at disrupting building and construction work.

A wide range of effective remedies will also be available to the ABCC and parties affected by unlawful behaviour, including injunctions.

Senator Abetz said the previous government was wrong to replace the ABCC with the Fair Work Building Industry Inspectorate – a regulator with significantly reduced powers and funding.

“Within weeks of the ABCC being abolished last year, we saw violence in the streets of Melbourne with militant union protestors intimidating the community,” Senator Abetz said.

“Having a strong, independent watchdog will ensure the industry does not return to an environment of wildcat stoppages and militant protests.”

The Bill before Parliament will:

  • Improve the bargaining framework to ensure negotiations are sensible and productive;
  • Extend coverage of the ABCC’s powers to offshore construction sites;
  • Prohibit coercion and discrimination;
  • Deliver significant penalties for unlawful action; and
  • Provide the regulator with strong but transparent coercive powers.

“The changes encourage productivity and the pursuit of high levels of employment in the building and construction industry,” Senator Abetz said.

“This industry is a major employer that is vital to job creation and essential to Australia’s economic and social well-being.

“The Bill will restore the ABCC to ensure that, on commercial building sites, the rule of law is respected, productivity is improved, jobs are created and major national construction projects are kept on track.”

For more information

Media line: (02) 6240 8667, media@employment.gov.au