The Morrison government has promised an additional $3.7 million in funding to the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) to help it enforce the rule of law on building and construction sites.
By contrast, Labor has vowed to abolish the building watchdog should it win the next federal election – as it did in 2012.
Industrial Relations Minister Kelly O’Dwyer said the funding would flow to the ABCC over four years from 2019/20.
“The Coalition Government is committed to addressing the lawlessness, thuggery and intimidation in the building and construction industry,” she said.
Ms O’Dwyer said many small businesses at the bottom of the contracting supply chain were vulnerable to the lawless behaviour of militant unions and poor treatment by the large construction companies.
“This additional funding means more inspectors and investigators for the ABCC to support small businesses and sub-contractors when head-contractors unlawfully withhold payment.”
The additional funding will also allow the ABCC to employ more frontline inspectors in Queensland, where the government says worksites are being subjected to increasingly militant, law-breaking behaviour.
More than $20 million in penalties has been awarded in cases brought by ABCC and its predecessors against the CFMMEU, other building industry unions and employers.
The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) welcomed the Federal Government’s announcement, and said record instances of law-breaking on Queensland construction sites over the past year reinforced the vital role of the ABCC.
ACCI CEO James Pearson said unions and employers shared the “same obligations as every Australian to act within the law.”
“Australians must be properly protected from those who believe they are above the law, or justify breaking the law as a means to an end, as we see from elements within the union movement.”
As an example, in just one case alone this year, the CFMMEU admitted to 143 contraventions of the Fair Work Act.
In welcoming the additional funding, Mr Pearson expressed concern at plans by the Federal Labor Party to abolish the ABCC.
“To abolish the ABCC would let building unions off the hook and give a green light to thuggish and unacceptable behaviour across Australia’s construction industry.”