ABC Live with Fran Kelly - ABCC

  • Minister for Employment
  • Minister for Women
  • Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service
  • Senator for Western Australia

ALISON CARABINE: Michaelia Cash is in our Parliament House studios, Michaelia Cash thanks for coming in.

MINISTER CASH: Great to be with you Alison.

ALISON CARABINE: Minister, 13 officials from the CFMEU accused of an orchestrated campaign of unlawful blockades and work disruptions, they have been targeting a Sydney concrete pumping company. Why has it taken 12 months for this to go to court?

MINISTER CASH: Alison, I think people would know that within the building and construction industry in Australia there is a culture of fear and a culture of silence. To get evidence in relation to these types of cases is not easy. The bigger point is this - there are already at least 73 members of the CFMEU who are facing court action, in Australia it is very clear, that the laws are not strong enough to deter unlawful behaviour whether it be fear, intimidation and bullying within the building and construction sector and something must be done.

ALISON CARABINE: Minister, if it has got to the stage where 73 CFMEU officials are before the courts around the country doesn’t that suggest that the current laws are adequate and don’t need to change?

MINISTER CASH: Absolutely not, because clearly they are not acting as a deterrent. I will give you an example; days lost due to industrial disputes which impacts directly on productivity in Australia. Before the ABCC came into being, in the construction and building sector in Australia, it was five times the industry average. When the ABCC was in effect, it dropped to two times. The minute that Labor abolished the ABCC this jumped back to four times the industry average.

ALISON CARABINE: If I could take you back to this case which is now going to go before court next month, workers trying to enter Barangaroo and Harold Park were allegedly called “f**ing scabs and filthy dogs”, Brian Parker the State Secretary of the CFMEU allegedly used his vehicle to block access to a concrete pump. Why was it so hard to gather the evidence in this particular case? Which brings me back to the timing, these court notices have been issued just as the Government is trying to ramp up pressure again on the Senate to pass the reintroduction of the Australian Building and Construction Commission the union says this case is a blatant politicisation of Fair Work Building and Construction which is behind the action. On the face of it, the timing of this court action does seem very curious.

MINISTER CASH: Absolutely not and I find it very strange that the union comes out and is complaining that the regulator is doing exactly what it is meant to do and that is enforce the law. Everybody in Australia should be entitled to go to work every single day in a workplace that is free from thuggery, intimidation ad bullying. You’ve just read out the “f**ing scabs” the “f**ing this”, “the f**ing that” - in what workplace in Australia is that in any way acceptable?

ALISON CARABINE: It shouldn’t be acceptable in any workplace at all but what could the Australian Building and Construction Commission achieve that the regulator that it would replace, the Fair Work Building and Construction, wouldn’t?

MINISTER CASH: Well in the first place when Labor abolished the ABCC it decreased or slashed the penalties that could be applied when someone had broken the law, by three. We will be tripling those penalties because clearly at the moment the penalties that are in place are not acting as a deterrent and in fact the analogy has been made, it is a bit like a driver who speeds. They pay the fine and then the speed again they pay the fine and then they speed again. Something is wrong with the penalty. One of the things that we will be doing when we restore the ABCC is to triple the penalties. Penalties need to be sufficient enough to act as a deterrent and this is one industry in Australia whereby clearly the penalties are not sufficient enough to act as a deterrent.

ALISON CARABINE: Well Minister the legislation reintroducing the ABCC has gone off to a Senate committee which will report back March 15. Do you genuinely want to Senate to pass this bill – wouldn’t you prefer to have yet another trigger, a more potent trigger for a double dissolution, isn’t that which this is all about?

MINISTER CASH: Absolutely not. The Government is committed to restoring law and order within the Australian building and construction sector. Alison, it’s the third biggest employer of Australians. It employs over a million Australians. In terms of the economic benefit to Australia, we need to ensure that we do everything to make sure that this sector is as productive as it can be. Our commitment is to restore the Building and Construction Commission so that law and order is respected within this sector.

ALISON CARABINE: But this bill is linked to the whole debate about a double dissolution, it could become another trigger. The Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said yesterday that the Government could pull the trigger if the Senate becomes inoperable. You are a Senator – are we at that stage? Is the Senate becoming unworkable and would you relish the opportunity to clean out the crossbench?

MINISTER CASH: Well in relation to a double dissolution trigger, we already have one. It’s in relation to registered organisations.

ALISON CARABINE: But you would like another one, another one that might resonate more with people.

MINISTER CASH: At this point in time, I know what my goal is. My goal is to get the Australian Building and Construction Commission legislation through the Senate. If Senators decide that they would rather side with the CFMEU, with Michael O’Connor, with thugs and bullies, that is for them to determine. I know where this Government stands. If they determine that this legislation is not going to pass the Senate, you are right; it does become another double dissolution trigger. But I have also made it very clear that if we were to go full term - and certainly to date the Prime Minster has indicated that this is a Government that will be going full term – we are committed to restoring law and order to the Australian building and construction industry. We do not stand for thuggery, bullying and intimidation. We will take this to the Australia people for yet another mandate Alison, because we got one in 2013 and we will ask them for another one.

ALISON CARABINE: Minister we only have about 30 seconds to go but today’s Newspoll is a reality check for the Government. It’s now tracking 50/50 two-party preferred with the Labor Party. Why do you think the Government is losing support?

MINISTER CASH: The polls are narrowing as they always do in an election year. This is not unexpected.

ALISON CARABINE: This is such a major narrowing of the polls.

MINISTER CASH: But they do narrow in an election year. At the end of the day there are two choices. Labor and Bill Shorten - high taxing, high spending. Or the Coalition and Malcolm Turnbull – considering policies in a methodical and meticulous manner and an agenda that is all about growth, jobs and backing the Australian people.

ALISON CARABINE: But Minister we are yet to see those tax policies.

MINISTER CASH: The budget occurs on May 10th and all will be laid bare for Australians in good time.

ALISON CARABINE: Michaelia Cash thank you for your time.

MINISTER CASH: Great to be with you, thanks for having me.



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