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Wednesday, 15 February 2012
Page: 1358


Mr EWEN JONES (Herbert) (11:37): In continuing my remarks on the Building and Construction Industry Improvement Amendment (Transition to Fair Work) Bill 2011, I want to reiterate my opposition to the bill and my concern for the construction industry. The Office of the Australian Building and Construction Commissioner, the ABCC, has allowed productivity in the construction industry to improve dramatically since its introduction. In considering the impacts of its abolition, I spoke to Martin Locke, a local quality home builder in Townsville, in relation to the industry in general. Martin is reasonably confident. He runs a small team and has a good business model. He wants to provide a quality housing product to quality people in a quality subdivision. His business has only ever operated under the umbrella of the ABCC; therefore, he does not have firsthand knowledge of what the changes in this bill will mean.

Martin would like to see the government get out of the way and let him get on with building. He sees that this proposed change is not a major concern to the industry. The system works and he is vitally worried that it appears that it is being changed for no good reason. He says that the industry is facing genuine concerns. The cost of basic materials such as steel, concrete, timber and fuel are impacting the industry's ability to produce a quality product at a reasonable price. Other builders tell me they are worried about the costs of these things as well. They are also telling me that, if they are expensive now, the world's most expensive carbon tax will only make them more expensive. The cost of concrete and bitumen is rising at the start of a development, and we will see the cost of land and housing rise further as we all have to pay this carbon tax. We will be making it harder and harder for Australians chasing their first home to make that purchase.

This government goes on and on about working Australians, but at every turn this government is putting up roadblocks to the success of every other Australian. The abolition of the ABCC will only play into that. Governments cannot control prices directly, but they can support the construction industry by cutting out the unnecessary bureaucracy that interferes with business and creates inefficiencies. The ABCC has helped to do this. It has ensured fairness exists in industrial relations, without letting either side have the kind of power that creates one-sided industrial disputes with consequences for productivity and costs.

As a supporter of the ABCC, I strongly oppose this bill. We should be working with the construction industry to keep fairness in the workplace. Allowing unions the power to use whatever tactics they can to run their agenda serves only to hurt the industry, and no-one can support that. It takes a strong policeman to maintain the balance in industrial relations and that is what we have now, but this bill seeks to strip it away in favour of a toothless tiger replacement.