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Monday, 26 September 2022
Page: 219


Mr PERRETT (Moreton) (18:55): I rise to speak on the member for Bowman's notion. Labor knows that too many Australians are struggling to pay their rent or buy a home and that too many Australians are homeless. But the Albanese government is playing its part. All levels of government need to come together to address these challenges. This is why we will develop a national housing and homelessness plan to drive action across governments and with industry. It is also why Labor's Minister for Housing has met with state and territory housing and homelessness ministers twice since the election—the first meetings in almost five years under the former government. There is a lot to do after almost 10 years of Liberal and National inaction when it comes to housing, but this government has a plan, and we're already delivering.

Labor abhors corruption and criminal activity in any industry, including the building and construction industry. But, as those opposite know, the ABCC is not designed to deal with breaches of the criminal law or with corruption of any kind. If a criminal matter happens, then due criminal processes should occur. This is just another attempt by the opposition to curate a myth that they should actually be embarrassed about. The ABCC was originally set up by the Howard government to enforce civil laws and industrial relations legislation. The Howard government originally established it to target workers for ideological reasons. It was set up to discredit and dismantle unions and undermine the pay, conditions and job security of ordinary Australians. Under the original Howard-era ABCC, they claimed that productivity in the building industry improved, which, of course, was not true.

To put some things into perspective, let's revisit the period after the ABCC was introduced in 2005. Productivity was mentioned by the member for Bowman. Building industry fatalities jumped 95 per cent between 2006 and 2008. Cases were brought against the CFMEU and other unions, resulting in over $5 million in fines and millions more in court costs, which, as you know, may be good for lawyers but is not actually good for the building industry. The ABCC was condemned eight times by the International Labour Organization for bias and for breaching conventions that Australia has signed. They were found to have unlawfully interviewed 203 people. So much for respect for the rule of law! When the Gillard and Rudd governments removed the majority of the ABCC's powers and implemented the Fair Work Australia model, we saw industrial disputes go down, we saw fatalities go down, and we saw productivity increase. I note that, during the period that the ABCC was in place, there were 330 deaths on construction sites. How many investigations were set in motion by the ABCC into those deaths?

A government member: Zero.

Mr PERRETT: Not one. Correct—zero. Unfortunately, the ABCC was reinstated in late 2016 by the Turnbull government who claimed that the re-establishment of the ABCC would lead to an increase in productivity—again. Bernard Keane from Crikey asked in an article recently: 'Productivity is the fundamental purpose of the ABCC. How has it performed?' Keane's research comes from the Productivity Commission's annual productivity report. Labour productivity between 2007 and 2016 in construction has seen annual 2.1 per cent growth. Keane points out that, while some of that period covers the last years of the Howard-era ABCC, most of it covers the period of time when Labor had made changes to the ABCC and, subsequently, abolished it. So now we have a bar. How has productivity performed since the coalition exhumed the ABCC? Bernard Keane's data says that construction sector labour productivity fell by 2.4 per cent. In 2018-19, it was down by 2.6 per cent. The next year, just before the health pandemic, productivity also fell by 2.6 per cent. So, really, what the figures show is that, under the ABCC, productivity in construction went into reverse.

What has the ABCC been doing? It certainly hasn't been increasing productivity in the construction sector. Since 2016, the ABCC has hit 252 individual workers with $530,800 in fines and penalties, which is substantially more than the $513,255 they've imposed on employers. Most of these workers were fined for attending stop-work meetings or participating in industrial action that would not see workers prosecuted in any other industry. The ABCC spent more than half a million dollars in pursuing the CFMMEU in the High Court over a dispute where union organisers demanded a women's toilet on a Melbourne worksite. As Bernard Keane rightly concludes:

… the Coalition presided over worsening labour productivity in construction, but re-establishing the ABCC accelerated the decline significantly.

We went to the last election with a commitment that we would abolish the ABCC and we intend to keep our promise and do exactly that.

Deputy Speaker, I suggest that the former speaker has already spoken on this matter.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms Claydon ): I am just about to make—

Honourable members interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! I remind everybody in this House that I really welcome listening to your arguments and contributions when you are standing on your feet to talk. The interjections are getting pretty loud, and I'm going to rule on them if you keep it up. Member for Deakin, are you seeking the call?

Mr Sukkar: Yes.

The DEPUT Y SPEAKER: What was your point of order?

Mr Perrett: That the member for Deakin has already spoken on this matter.

Mr Sukkar: No. As is customary, I—

Mr Perrett: You did not reserve your right to speak.

Mr Sukkar: Excuse me—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Excuse me! I rule that the member for Deakin can have the floor.