Builders are happy to have the ABCC back because, after three Royal Commissions, dozens of reviews and inquiries, and countless court decisions, it was clear that the construction industry had unique problems and that tougher industry specific rules were needed.

But the lawlessness, intimidation and industrial thuggery that happens on building sites isn't just our industry’s problem– it is everyone's problem – because taxpayers foot the bill for the delays, blowouts and days lost to strikes causing construction costs to be about 30% higher than they should be.

Most of the Senate crossbench, including Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, Nick Xenophon Team and Senators Derryn Hinch and David Leyonhjelm also saw the need to put an end to building union bullying on construction sites. They backed their conviction with action and backed the Turnbull Government to bring back the ABCC.

Building unions don’t like the ABCC because while it doesn’t affect building worker’s wages or conditions (in fact building workers are some of the highest paid tradies in Australia) it does mean they have to act like normal unions in normal workplaces and respect the legal limits to their behaviour just like other workers and the rest of the community.

It’s thanks to the courage and conviction of people like
Senators Hinch and Xenophon that nearly 340,000 small

family businesses and sub-contractors in our industry now
have the ABCC to protect them from union bullies who threaten
their livelihoods with blacklists, illegal pickets and a range
of other ruthless industrial tactics.

Of course, building unions are outraged. They are masters of fake news and never let the truth get in the way of their agenda. Last year unions ran campaigns saying the ABCC would reduce safety and cause more accidents on building sites even though statistics from the national workplace safety regulator showed the opposite.  They even said ice dealers had more rights than building workers but, as the ABC Fact Check found, that claim was "absolute nonsense".

Some changes were made to laws last year that delayed the commencement of the Building Code enforced by the ABCC for some building companies. Master Builders didn’t support the changes but it was necessary to get the ABCC back.

Now Senator Hinch, who initially wanted the change, has done what politicians are supposed to do. He listened to the concerns of his constituents, changed his mind and is now trying to make things right. He is proposing changes to when the Building Code takes effect so the community can benefit from better value for its schools, hospitals and roads.  

But this will need the support of the Senators Xenophon and Hanson and their parliamentary teams who are now the victims of a vicious CFMEU campaign of protest that Senator Hinch has described as a “hate campaign”.

How dare politicians try to do the right thing and keep an open mind!?

The union’s response has been typical and wrong
– they claim Senator Hinch wants to give foreigners
Australian jobs and Senator Xenophon wants to
reduce safety standards for workers. These claims

are false, but that doesn’t stop building union tactics.

Senator Hinch told a Senate Inquiry this week that big signs about overseas workers have been put up outside his office by building unions. Signs against Senator Xenophon have also been erected, along with a one page newspaper advertisement and a protest march against the ABCC in the name of safety has been arranged at short notice, in Adelaide.

So here is the real news:

Fact: Latest changes to the ABCC laws are about the timing of Building Code – not what it contains or says.

Fact: The Building Code doesn't affect safety. They are state laws enforced by state regulators – nothing to do with the Commonwealth. In fact, part of the ABCC system built into law is that builders must meet a higher level of OHS compliance, assessed and regularly audited by a specialist building safety body, the Office of the Federal Safety Commissioner. This on top of the requirements of state OHS laws that apply to all workplacs.

Fact: The Building Code puts more obligations on builders to use Australian labour before looking at overseas workers than exist in any other sector. Senators Xenophon and Hinch supported this.

Fact: Senator Xenophon stopped a change to the Act to alter the burden of proof in circumstances where workers stopped work over safety concerns, supported by Senator Hinch.

Fact: Senators Hinch and Xenophon made a range of changes to the ABCC laws – making the regulator more accountable, putting apprentice engagement and safety into the Act underpinning the Code and regulator, and substantial changes that aim to give small business sub-contractors a better deal.

Many of these changes were to the benefit of workers and union members but seemingly this doesn't matter.

Apparently building unions will still accuse Senators Hinch and Xenophon of putting lives at risk and taking away Australian jobs, even though the rules for builders are more comprehensive than other sector, the Code doesn't affect safety standards, and many of the additional protections and safeguards in the law are only there because Hinch and Xenophon put them there.

Safety on building sites is too important to be used as a political football and its offensive that completely wrong accusations are thrown around about such a crucial part of the workplace.

So when you see the mass of high-viz, red-flag waving, building union protestors over the next few days, remember this – they are protesting about the timing of a regulation that makes building unions accountable for their actions and requires them to behave just like the rest of us.

Shaun Schmitke

National Director, Industrial Relations

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