2GB with Ross Greenwood - Introduction of the ABCC
ROSS GREENWOOD: Let’s go to the Employment Minister, Michaelia Cash. Michaelia’s job is to sell that legislation not only to the cross bench senators but to you, the public as well and I have her on the line, many thanks for your time Michaelia.
MINISTER CASH: It’s great to be with you thanks for having me.
ROSS GREENWOOD: Why is it that the creation of the Australian Building and Construction Commission or the re-creation of it, is such an important thing. Why does the Government believe that the current mechanisms which have been beefed up are not sufficient?
MINISTER CASH: The current mechanisms haven’t been beefed up. In fact in 2012 the ABCC was actually disbanded by the former Gillard government – the reason that a building regulator is so important and it’s not just a building regulator, it’s a regulator that has increased penalties so that the penalty really does act as a deterrent because clearly currently it doesn’t. Industrial unlawfulness and the wilful failure to comply with workplace laws within the building and construction industry within Australia is a pressing problem and it’s a pressing problem because at the end of the day this is the nation’s third largest employer. It employs approximately more than one million people in the industry, hundreds of thousands of predominately small to medium businesses and these people go to work every day under a culture of fear and intimidation.
ROSS GREENWOOD: What is true and there is no doubt and with the Australian Building and Construction Commission out there and with the ruling that you have described and that is that disputes inside the building industry during that period of time really did dissipate as compared with where it had been previously. Now what you have also got is the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance. There are confidential volumes that the Government has offered up to the opposition which they say they will not look at it at this stage but the question is whether you believe you can convince the cross bench senators that they should agree to the passing of this legislation.
MINISTER CASH: You are correct, just on your first point, you are right, when the ABCC was in existence and it was in existence for about six years, Australians saw economic and industrial performance in this important sector improve markedly. What they also saw following the abolition of the ABCC those significant improvements in labour and multifaceted productivity in the construction sector stopped. I would say that the Government has already made the case for the ABCC. You have obviously the Cole Royal Commission and I saw Commissioner Cole came out today talking about the productivity benefits and the flow on to jobs that the ABCC would create. Even Julia Gillard – she had Justice Wilcox look at the ABCC, and even he found that there was a need for a separate regulator in the building and construction industry because of the unlawfulness, the rampant industrial lawfulness in this important industry.
ROSS GREENWOOD: Okay, when you go to unlawfulness are you describing the unlawfulness inside the trade union movement or are you also describing unlawfulness that is also alleged inside employers, in other words building companies themselves that are quite clearly prepared to pay sweetheart deals and / or bribes to try and get their jobs done?
MINISTER CASH: I would say both. Certainly it is true unfortunate it hurts the small and medium business who just want to have a go at actually get some work in the building and construction sector and often they are locked out because, as you are right, some of the bigger employers and the CFMEU get together and lock them out. Quite frankly that is not good enough and that’s why an important or a key element of our legislation is an effective and productive building code to ensure that those contractors that want to do tax payer funded work pay their employees correctly, strictly comply with safety laws and do not violate migration or industrial laws. This I can assure you, this is not an attack on a union, it is cleaning up a sector where the problems of rampant industrial unlawfulness in this industry are well-known across Australia and whether you are an employer or a union, we expect you to comply with the laws that are in place in your workplace.
ROSS GREENWOOD: Okay, now today Mark Dreyfus the Shadow Attorney-General said he refuses to play political games. The question is whether this is a political game designed specifically to give the government a trigger for a double dissolution?
MINISTER CASH: This is not a political game. Especially when you are talking about the economic and industrial performance in this important sector, the third biggest employer in Australia, that existed when the ABCC was in place. This is not a political game. This is all about productivity, this is about jobs, this is about cleaning up a sector that the extensive Royal Commissions, Julia Gillard’s own hand-picked reviewer, Justice Wilcox and Federal Court decision after Federal Court decision has found rampant industrial unlawfulness. When you actually have stoppages on building sites obviously costs are then incurred because of the delays. These costs ultimately can go into the billions of dollars over the years. Those costs are borne by the average Australian who is the ultimate consumer who get to pay the price.
ROSS GREENWOOD: Michaelia Cash is the Minister for Employment, good to have her on the show tonight. You can see that very strong message coming out of the Government but also potentially a trigger for a double dissolution election.