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Thursday, 14 November 2013
Page: 333

Employment


Mr TONY SMITH (Casey) (14:33): My question is to the Minister for Education, representing the Minister for Employment. Is the minister aware of the published statement by Grocon employees, 'We have been unfairly singled out for abuse, threats and intimidation by the very organisation we pay union fees to in an argument which is not of our doing'? What will the government do to ensure that workers in the building and construction sector, including those in my electorate of Casey, are protected from abuse, threats and intimidation?


Mr PYNE (Sturt—Minister for Education and Leader of the House) (14:33): I thank my friend the member for Casey for his question. In 2001 the Cole royal commission, a commission founded by the now Prime Minister, the member for Warringah, found that construction sites were hotbeds of intimidation, thuggery, lawlessness and violence. In 2005 the Howard government established the Australian Building and Construction Commission. This comes as no surprise to the members of the Labor Party, of course. In 2012 the Leader of the Opposition abolished the Australian Building and Construction Commission. While the Australian Building and Construction Commission existed, construction industry productivity grew by nine per cent, consumers were better off by $7.5 billion annually and there were fewer working days lost through industrial action. But presumably the Leader of the Opposition did not support those positive economic outcomes, because he moved to abolish the Australian Building and Construction Commission.

The Grocon dispute in Melbourne last year plumbed new depths for Labor thuggery—I mean union thuggery; a Freudian slip!—intimidation of workers. The workers at Grocon themselves published this advertisement, which my friend the member for Casey referred to, which, amongst other things, said:

Grocon employees are fed up and disappointed with the Union representing their own needs and agendas against, over and beyond Grocon employees wishes.

… All we want is to be able to go to work and be allowed to provide for our families and loved ones.

… We only ask that we be allowed the same basic rights our Union leadership enjoy, to be free to access our places of work without the lies, threats and abuse, and without fear of reprisals.'

Today we move to reintroduce the Australian Building and Construction Commission, because this side of the House represents workers in Australia, and the other side of the House represents union leaders. The Leader of the Opposition will oppose this move, because when the union leaders come to see the Leader of the Opposition about policy it is like pushing against an open door. The problem with the Leader of the Opposition is he does not believe in anything at all. The only thing he believes in is gaining power, so the union leaders support him; he will support their wishes. It is hard to disagree with someone when you do not believe in anything. And the problem with the Leader of the Opposition, because he believes in nothing at all, is that when the union leaders say 'Jump', he asks, 'How high?'

I table the Grocon advertisement from the employees and the Independent Economics analysis of the economic benefits of the Australian Building and Construction Commission from 2013.