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Transcript of doorstop interview of the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations: Brisbane: 2 March 2005: Building and Construction Industry Improvement Bill.



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THE HON KEVIN ANDREWS MP

MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT AND WORKPLACE RELATIONS MINISTER ASSISTING THE PRIME MINISTER FOR THE PUBLIC SERVICE

Transcript

Building and Construction Industry Improvement Bill

Brisbane,Doorstop

KEVIN ANDREWS

Ladies and gentlemen, next week I will be re-introducing into the Federal Parliament the enforcement provisions of the Building and Construction Industry Improvement Bill. These provisions will increase the penalties for unlawful industrial action to $110,000 for body corporates and to $22,000 for others, that’s a sixfold increase in the penalties. It’ll also enable uncapped compensation to be paid where, for example, a union takes unlawful industrial action before the expiry of an agreement. And will also give power to inspectors from the Building Industry Taskforce to actually initiate prosecutions themselves, something which is unable to be done at this time. The reason for this… and I should say we also plan to make this legislation retrospective so that no unlawful industrial action should be taken before the expiry of agreements. The reason for this is that we believe that the building industry has been on notice for some time now as to the changes we want to make, it’s an industry which criminality and lawlessness is common, something that’s been set out before the Cole Royal Commission and by the Building Industry Taskforce itself, and we want to bring about a change in this industry and therefore we’re taking these measures next week.

JOURNALIST

When is the retrospective provision of the bill likely to take… become effective?

KEVIN ANDREWS

We haven’t decided upon that exactly, we’ll decide that before we introduce the legislation next week. But, can I say that this is legislation which has been in the pipeline for not just months but years now, we sought to pass it through the Parliament last year. So the entire industry, whether it’s the business owners and construction companies themselves or the unions have been on notice that this has been the intention

of the government.

JOURNALIST

How do you think the unions will go when they challenge this in court?

KEVIN ANDREWS

Well, there are other instances where the government has introduced legislation that’s been retrospective and that’s been held to be valid, and I believe that this will be as well.

JOURNALIST

And what evidence have you had of unions using pressure tactics against constructors?

KEVIN ANDREWS

Oh, it’s quite common, I’ve just been to a meeting with major building and construction industry companies in Queensland here today and I’ve heard numerous stories of these sort of pressure tactics being used by the union to try and renegotiate agreements that are outside the lawful time for the renegotiation of agreements by some months, and are certainly months away from the expiry of these agreements.

JOURNALIST

Any specific examples of pressure?

KEVIN ANDREWS

Oh, just simply where claims that are being made which are outrageous, suggestions that if the claims would be opposed, well then, further and other action would be taken and threats of industrial action. But that’s totally unacceptable in this day and age.

JOURNALIST

And how many employers have actually signed these agreements, the union agreements so far?

KEVIN ANDREWS

So far as I’m aware, none have. And my message is to the building and construction industry that there is no reason to sign up to these. We will put in place these measures and we will put in place further reform through the Building and Construction Industry Reform Bill, which will establish a commission to regulate and police an industry which is singular in the examples of criminality and lawlessness that is applied and which has been reasonably and understood by everybody for some years now.

JOURNALIST

And when will the bill be available for viewing?

KEVIN ANDREWS

Next week we’ll introduce it.

ENDS

For further information contact:

Russ Street 0417 044 712

2/03/2005