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Tuesday, 27 May 2003
Page: 15029

Mr PYNE (2:36 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations. Would the minister inform the House of progress in implementing the key recommendations of the Cole royal commission? What action has the government taken to ensure that reform on building sites will be a reality soon?

Mr ABBOTT (Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service) —I thank the member for Sturt for his question. I can inform the House that, in response to the first report of the Cole royal commission, the government established an interim task force with the job of securing zero tolerance of industrial lawlessness in the building sector. Since September last year, the task force has conducted over 300 site visits. It currently has 34 investigations under way. It has referred some 11 matters to state police and other prosecuting bodies. Thirteen briefs of evidence are in preparation and four prosecutions are currently before the courts, thanks to the work of the interim task force. I should point out to the House that the government is determined to ensure that the rule of law applies just as much behind construction site fences as it does in the streets outside.

In response to the final report of the Cole royal commission, the government announced, first, that it will establish a permanent Australian building and construction commission to police the industry; second, that it will seek a separate act governing workplace relations in the building industry; third, that there will be a Commonwealth safety commissioner to ensure that federally funded building sites are models of occupational health and safety best practice; and fourth, and in some ways perhaps most importantly, that all future federally funded construction projects, both directly and indirectly federally funded, would go ahead under the national construction code and implementation guidelines.

I should remind the House that the royal commission was set up, in part, in response to claims by the National Secretary of the Construction Division of the CFMEU that criminal elements were infiltrating his union and his industry. The construction industry is a great industry, but it does have a dark side and this government is determined to do whatever it can to deliver a clean and competitive industry that honest workers, honest unions and honest managers need and deserve.