Originally published in Workforce Daily – 30 November 2016

Employer groups are championing the Coalition government’s win following the Australian Building and Constriction Commission (ABCC) Bill’s passage in the Senate today (November 30).

The Senate passed the amendment bill 36-33after the Federal Government negotiated the final crossbench support it needed from the Xenophon Team.

Senator Nick Xenophon won amendments to federal procurement rules that will be implemented on March 1, 2017.

Under the changes, Commonwealth officials will be required to consider the benefit to the Australian economy for federal procurement projects worth more than $4m.

Xenophon told the Senate last night the Trade Union Royal Commission (TURC) “gathered a great deal of evidence – some of which I found quite compelling – about serious issues: allegations of corruption, bullying and harassment”.

Bring on the investment and do away with closed shops: Employers

Employer groups said the detail of the ABCC changes will take time for employers to “absorb”, but mean small business will no longer be excluded from closed union shops and will improve Australia’s investment prospects.

Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox said “the rule of law is set to be re-established on building sites”.

“The significant increase in penalties that will apply to unlawful conduct should ensure that the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU) changes its current unacceptable approach of blatantly disregarding industrial laws,” he said.

“If it does not, the ABCC will have the necessary powers to hold the union to account.

“The [law’s] new Building Code will ensure that enterprise agreements (EA) and site practices that apply on Australian Government projects do not prevent work being carried out productively and efficiently.”

The Australian Mines and Metals Association said the additional reach of the restored ABCC will address “militant and unlawful industrial tactics in the offshore resources sector and related supply chains, (which) will provide a massive boost to Australia’s prospects of securing $255bn worth of resources investment”.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry said “contractors, who are often small business people and tradies, will have the benefit of a regulator with stronger powers to address closed shop practices that exclude them from work opportunities because they chose not to sign up to a trade union (EA) or require their staff to do so”.

Master Builders Australia chief executive Wilhelm Harnsich said “the various amendments to the ABCC will take some time for the industry to absorb and it will work with the govt and other parties to arrive at a set of practical arrangements for their implementation”.

Good laws do not take three years to pass: CFMEU

The CFMEU said the passing of the ABCC Bill sold out the civil and industrial rights of one million Australian workers.

The union said the ABCC will remove the right to silence, stop workers and employers agreeing to limit casualisation, prohibit CFMEU from promoting more apprentice jobs, ban unions and employers agreeing to safe hours of work, and prohibit employees seeking union assistance over safety issues.

CFMEU national construction secretary Dave Noonan said the ABCC “will endanger safety and conditions for ordinary workers in the industry because we’ve been here before and that’s what happened”.

“We will also continue to fight for an end to bad and discriminatory laws that favour the interests of big property developers and multinational construction companies over the interests of ordinary working Australians,” he said.

“These are bad laws and that’s why it has taken the govt three years to pass them.”

The Greens called the introduction of the ABCC a “malicious attack on Australian workers”.

ACTU assistant secretary Scott Connolly said the Coalition had “slashed apprenticeship opportunities and undermined the future pay and conditions of construction workers, all in one act of parliament”.