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Wednesday, 15 February 2017
Page: 1054

Senator CASH (Western AustraliaMinister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service, Minister for Employment and Minister for Women) (18:27): Senator Cameron, again, as last time, it is clearly going to be a very, very long night. In relation to the cartel-like behaviour, you will be aware that what the code is seeking to do is break—we admit it—the cartel-like behaviour between head contractors and unions.

While they often directly employ few workers on site, big builders often enter into deals with unions that seek to mandate the pay and conditions for all subcontractors on site. This is directly relevant to small and medium enterprises who need to have the freedom to make a deal with their employees free of coercion. For example, the CFMEU's pattern bargaining agreement, which they require everybody in the chain to adhere to, contains a raft of restrictive work practices. It is okay for the big end of town; they can afford that. But the small and medium businesses are the ones who, unfortunately, do not have the power or the money to necessarily comply with these pattern bargaining agreement requirements. And, as such, they are quite literally not able to participate in the industry.

In terms of the survey that I referred to, as I said, 16 per cent of the agreements that the department had assessed had clauses in them that directly relate to the cause that I read out in relation to the renegotiation of agreements. My understanding is that the ACCC is currently investigating cartel behaviour within the building and construction industry—and the example given is, obviously, Boral.