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Monday, 2 December 2013
Page: 1176


Mr RANDALL (Canning) (13:34): I am pleased to speak on the bill before the House today, the Building and Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Bill 2013, and the cognate bill, the Building and Construction Industry (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2013. As many of the speakers in this debate have already said, this bill seeks to restore the Australian Building and Construction Commission, or the ABCC. This will reverse Labor's changes to the laws which saw the ABCC abolished in 2012. In the government's policy to improve fair work laws, we are committed to restoring the ABCC to ensure that the rule of law is adhered to in the building and construction industry and to seeing much-needed productivity restored.

Let us just remind the House that the coalition took this commitment not only to the last election, in 2013, but also to the 2010 election. We are here today because the Labor Party, under both former Prime Minister Rudd and former Prime Minister Gillard, kowtowed to the union movement and decided to withdraw from being the tough cop on the beat in the building and construction industry. I looked at a speech I made to this House in 2012 in the second reading debate on the Building and Construction Industry Improvement Amendment (Transition to Fair Work) Bill 2011, and much of what I said then is true today. I could almost reread my previous notes to the House and it would all be relevant. For example, the coalition established the Building and Construction Commission in 2005 in response to the Cole royal commission. The then industrial relations minister was our Prime Minister today, Tony Abbott. The Cole royal commission report found that unlawful and inappropriate conduct was widespread in the building and construction industry and that there were many bogus safety issues, such as the right of entry, which I will go to if I have the time.

What the ABCC achieved in that time was a 10 per cent increase in productivity. It provided an annual economic welfare gain of $5.5 billion per year. It reduced inflation by 1.2 per cent and it increased GDP by 1½ per cent. The number of working days lost annually per 1,000 employees in the construction industry fell from 224 in 2004 to just 24 in 2006. Building costs fell by 20 to 25 per cent, and long project delays were dramatically reduced. This is all from my previous speech; it is all true today. But what happened? Along came Prime Minister Gillard. As we know, all members opposite in this place have to belong to a union to be in the House of Representatives or, dare I say, in the Senate. They have to join a union.

Mr Zappia: No, you don ' t.

Mr RANDALL: I would like to know which union the member for Makin belongs to. He might want to tell us. Then we will know which union he is obliged to. Unions put representatives in parliament through their preselection processes. The unions control the preselection processes of the Australian Labor Party. You have all listened to the maiden speeches in this House. Most new Labor members have an industrial history through either the union movement or through some association. We see how they continually inject former union bosses particularly into the Senate. Senator Doug Cameron comes to mind. All of these people are beholden to the union movement.

I do not have a problem with the union movement. When I was a schoolteacher, I was head of the teachers union in my school. If you are doing good things for your members in a collective way, that is a good thing. But when you become a militant union like the CFMEU or the MUA then you are damaging this country. It is passing strange and interesting to this House that the now opposition leader and industrial relations spokesman, Bill Shorten, member for Maribyrnong, said in Western Australia when he visited the MUA: 'We should all take notice of how the MUA conduct themselves. I admire their militancy and I think we should do more to model ourselves on that.' You did not hear that around the rest of Australia. The opposition leader was there with Chris Cain of the MUA in Western Australia, the anarchists in the workplace setting, saying that we should be more like the MUA. That is the DNA of those opposite, and unions generally pay for most of their election funds. So of course those opposite are obliged to them.

Before the ABCC was abolished, the Labor Party tried to defund it. Any organisation which is defunded cannot do its business. That was the first step in neutering the ABCC, the tough cop on the beat. Let us look at what happened when they did that. We all saw what happened to Grocon when it was trying to do its lawful business in Victoria. The thugs got hold of the workers going to work. They spat on them and called them 'dogs' and 'scabs'. They knew where they lived and said they would get their families—all that sort of talk. The rule of law was broken.

The Cole royal commission maintains its relevance today. In the findings from the Cole royal commission in 2003, 10 years ago, Justice Cole said that in the building and construction industry throughout Australia there is a widespread disregard of, or breach of, the enterprise-bargaining provisions of the Workplace Relations Act 1996; widespread disregard of, or breach of, the freedom-of-association provisions of the Workplace Relations Act 1996; widespread departure from proper standards of occupational health and safety; and a widespread requirement by head contractors through subcontractors to have union endorsed enterprise-bargaining agreements.

Remember on the sites in Western Australia and all around Australia, 'No ticket, no start'? Unless you belonged to a union you could not get a job. They have taken the signs down, but they are still trying to do it. At the moment in the Pilbara—more than 50 per cent of this nation's export income comes from Western Australia, much of it from the Pilbara with iron ore, gas and a range of other minerals—there is now a demarcation dispute between the CFMEU, trying to muscle in on the union territory, and the AWU. That is now causing disruption in the workplace with strikes and the like. This affects productivity. It has already been pointed out to you how much productivity is worth to the Australian economy. An article in Business Spectator on 16 October 2013 said:

Australia would benefit to the tune of $1.252 billion if the construction sector improved its productivity by just 1 per cent, according to the new PricewaterhouseCoopers report.

Remember what it did when we brought in the tough cop on the beat before? Ten per cent. We are talking about how much it would improve our bottom line productivity: by one per cent.

When I made my speech in 2012, I heard the member for McEwen say, 'Productivity is another way of ripping away conditions and awards from workers.' If somebody wants to strike a bargain and get a better deal, what is the matter with that? In my electorate of Canning, 20 per cent of the people were on AWAs, most of them in the resources industry. They struck that bargain because they could get more money, not less money. What is the matter with rewarding somebody who wants to work smarter and harder? That is called productivity. Those opposite have a problem with the word 'productivity' because somehow they link it to a reduction in terms and conditions. That is simply not true.

Unless you have someone with the legal authority and the willingness to enforce sanctions, you will have the Joe McDonalds and the Kevin Reynolds of Australia importing their thuggery and lack of rule of law into workplaces. Good honest workers just want to earn a quid to pay their mortgages and to look after their families.

This legislation is not only very important for all Australians and for our economy generally; it is about Australia getting back on the track. At the moment, Australia is one of the dearest places in the world to do business. One of the reasons is that we have artificially inflated workplace laws. Those laws are making it so dear for any resource company coming to invest in this country or to even expand in this country. But those opposite do not really care, as long as their union bosses stay in charge, so they will be able to get back into this place or garner some influence. There are good people on that side of the House who would like to see the union influence in this place reduced—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. BC Scott ): Order! The debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 43. The debate may be resumed at a later hour and the member for Canning will have leave to continue his remarks when the debate is resumed.