Proposed changes to Australia’s building industry watchdog, tabled in Parliament today, will replace the existing industry watchdog with a Milli Vanilli version according to the Australian Mines and Metals Association (AMMA).
AMMA CEO Steve Knott said the recent public argy-bargy being played out between the Rudd Government and the union movement had cleverly diverted attention away from the fact that the effectiveness and powers of the current building watchdog are to be significantly watered down.
Reported proposals to wind back the accompanying Building code and guidelines will also undo years of hard work that has secured years of cultural and economic change in the sector.
“The Government’s compromise deal with the union movement will reduce the penalties for unlawful activity in the construction sector, reduce the powers of the independent watchdog and tie the replacement body in a myriad of red tape and ineffective bureaucratic procedures, Mr Knott said.
“These reforms will weaken the capacity of the watchdog in the future to deal with unlawful behaviour by making the process overly bureaucratic which will in- turn lead to delays in investigations.
“This will lead to increased industrial disputation and job losses in an already weakened sector”.
“The powers of a truly independent watchdog are being taken away and being replaced with the lip-sync version of an independent watchdog, he said.”
Given global financial uncertainty has already seen a considerable downturn in business confidence and investment and now is not the time to be adding to that uncertainty by watering down the powers of a body that has significantly reduced strikes within the construction sector.
Mr Knott said the proposed laws were a compromise designed to placate militant unions.
Attempting to placate the unions by introducing a mechanism to switch off the independent watchdogs coercive powers for peaceful parts of the industry simply adds to business uncertainty.
There is uncertainty about just what constitutes a peaceful part of the industry and how exactly this will be defined in the future. The Prime Minister himself last week recognised that real problems of intimidation and unlawfulness were still occurring in the construction industry, particularly in WA and VIC.
“It makes no sense at all to water down the powers of the construction watchdog at the same time as we see both the Federal Government as well as successive State Governments commit themselves to large infrastructure building programs in order to both build the nation for the future and weather the global financial storm.