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Tuesday, 20 March 2012
Page: 2320


Senator XENOPHON (South Australia) (17:57): I am very grateful to Senator Edwards for giving me the time to speak to the Building and Construction Industry Improvement Amendment (Transition to Fair Work) Bill 2012, because this debate will be truncated—it will be guillotined, in effect, at 6pm. So my contribution, of necessity, will be brief—in fact, two minutes and 30 seconds.

I can indicate that I have real reservations about supporting the second reading stages of this bill, and indeed this bill generally, for a number of reasons. My first concern is principally one of process. I am concerned that there were some last-minute amendments moved in the House of Representatives that the Senate committee did not have an opportunity to appropriately assess. These were significant amendments, alluded to by Senator Edwards, in terms of agreements.

I do understand the argument of those in the union movement who regard the legislation in terms of the ABCC to be discriminatory but I think that if we are going to do our job properly then there ought to be an opportunity for the Senate committee that is charged with looking at this matter to investigate it appropriately. I think that the amendments moved in the House of Representatives were significant enough to warrant that. That is why I voted with the coalition last night in relation to these matters being referred to a committee. That was defeated.

That does not mean that I do not support the general thrust of this bill, but there is a fundamental issue of process. The fundamental process is that it is our job in the Senate to appropriately scrutinise bills from the executive arm of government. There was a last-minute amendment. That amendment has not been appropriately scrutinised; in fact, the move to have it appropriately scrutinised was defeated. That is why I have real reservations about this bill proceeding in its current form.

That does not mean to say that I do not think there needs to be significant reform to the ABCC or that I do not think there is a need to replace it with a Fair Work building industry inspectorate, but for me this bill fails at the first hurdle—that is the hurdle of process, because the government has not wanted this matter to go off to committee in terms of last-minute amendments which I believe are quite significant.

The PRESIDENT: The question is that the bill be now read a second time.