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Wednesday, 24 June 2009
Page: 4162


Senator FISHER (3:18 PM) —I rise to take note of the answers given in question time today by Senator Arbib in respect of the Australian building and construction industry and, in particular, Senator Arbib’s repeated attempts to reassure the Australian electorate and this parliament that the Rudd Labor government is keeping its election commitment to the Australian building and construction industry for a ‘tough cop’ on the building and construction industry beat and to retain the current powers of the Australian Building and Construction Commission until 31 January 2010.

Minister Arbib repeated his reassurance and promise, as if saying it once, twice, if not three times, made it true. Every time he said it just demonstrated how untrue it is. How can the Rudd Labor government be keeping a ‘tough cop’ on the construction industry beat when the Deputy Prime Minister indicated in every second sentence in her speech introducing the bill in the other place that it will be a cutback cop with cutback powers? In fact, the only ‘tough cop’ on the building and construction industry beat will be the CFMEU, because that is the election commitment and promise that the Rudd Labor government is keeping.

The Deputy Prime Minister says that the new so-called ‘tough cop’ on the construction industry beat come January 2010 will be able to switch off and switch on. She said in her second reading speech:

In the event that a project where the coercive powers have been switched off experiences industrial unlawfulness the Independent Assessor may rescind or revoke the original decision, thereby switching the powers back on.

Hang on. If the guys have been good then the reason they have been good will get switched off. But when the guys—and I mean that in a gender neutral sense—are bad again, as they will be, the powers will get switched back on. How is that keeping a ‘tough cop’ on the construction industry beat?

The Prime Minister explicitly said pre election, ‘The current ABCC powers will stay in place to January 2010.’ How is the Deputy Prime Minister’s ministerial direction issued today to the Australian Building and Construction Commission to take effect from 3 August—in some five weeks time—to curtail the coercive powers of the Australian Building and Construction Commission ensuring that ‘the current ABCC powers stay in place until January 2010’? How is that keeping that part of the election promise? No, no, no—the only election promise being kept is the one to the union movement to make the so-called tough cop on the construction industry beat the CFMEU. The CFMEU will be the construction industry cop.

This confected fight, this fake fight, between the Rudd Labor government and the union movement enables the Prime Minister to say: ‘We must have got this bill right, because we have got a fight with the unions and we have got a fight with the employer movement as well. So we must have got the balance right.’ Australians are tired of that refrain. The government tried to use it with the Fair Work legislation. It is a tired, untrue refrain. It is a fake fight with the union movement, and do you know what demonstrates that, Mr Acting Deputy President? What demonstrates that is the visit to this parliament today by the CFMEU. If the CFMEU were so outraged by this Rudd Labor government’s reforms for the building and construction sector, don’t you think they would have been the CFMEU cop going up and down the parliamentary corridors, expressing their dissatisfaction? But no—their silent presence today demonstrates that they are pretty happy. They are pretty happy with the Rudd Labor government’s delivery of its election promise—the one made to the CFMEU that they, the CFMEU, will become the cop on the construction industry beat come January 2010.