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Thursday, 5 March 2015
Page: 1302


Senator SESELJA (Australian Capital Territory) (12:41): I was watching the debate in this place yesterday on the Building and Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Bill 2013 and the related bill. I guess it is fair to say that I was taken aback by some of the inaccuracies and omissions in the contributions of some senators, including senators Cameron, Lines and Rice. I wanted to go through those, but I do not think there is enough time to adequately address the blatantly misleading representations put forward in those contributions yesterday, so I will deal with only one or two issues as an illustration.

Yesterday, Senator Cameron seemed to suggest that the Productivity Commission had found against the need for an ABCC, and had decided against the legislation currently being debated in its review of public infrastructure. Nothing could be further from the truth. When talking about the Productivity Commission's report into public infrastructure, Senator Cameron, very conveniently, forgot to mention the recommendations 13.1 and 13.2. These are two crucial recommendations which highlight the need for the ABCC and which in fact give great support to what the government is doing with this current legislation.

So, what were the recommendations of this expert body? First, the Productivity Commission recommendation 13.2 is that the level of penalties for unlawful civil conduct in the building and construction industry needs to be increased. We did not hear that in the contributions from those opposite—from Senator Cameron. Let me repeat that: the Productivity Commission recommendation 13.2 is that the level of penalties for unlawful civil conduct in the building and construction industry needs to be increased—as this bill will do.

I wonder why that is? I wonder why they would have omitted to mention that? Is it because when Labor gave in to the CFMEU directive in 2012 to abolish the ABCC that Labor also reduced the penalties facing the CFMEU for its wrongdoing by two-thirds? How convenient. I wonder what it did for state of compliance with industrial laws in the industry, to make it cheaper for the CFMEU to continue to break the law? Only a matter of weeks after the ABCC was abolished we saw the CFMEU take over the streets of Melbourne, punching police horses and hurling abuse at police and the workers who were trying to get on site and go to work.

What else did the Productivity Commission recommend in 13.2? It said the Australian government should:

… ensure that the specialist regulator has adequate resources to give genuine and timely effect to the enforcement regime.

What else did Labor do to the construction industry regulator when it came into power? It gutted the budget of the ABCC and, later, the budget of the FWBC, so that those regulators could not effectively afford to bring wrongdoers to justice through the courts—further favours for the CFMEU and all at the expense of honest construction workers who want to go to work free from intimidation and thuggery by the construction unions.

But there was another key recommendation by the Productivity Commission which Senator Cameron quite misleadingly forgot to mention in his contribution yesterday, and that is recommendation 13.1, which encouraged all Australian governments to adopt codes and guidelines similar to the framework of the Victorian code of practice, which Labor Premier Daniel Andrews quietly dropped as one of this first acts of CFMEU appeasement upon taking office. Now, I do not want to dwell on the issue of Daniel Andrews, but Daniel Andrews quietly abolished—

Debate interrupted.