THE passing of legislation to restore the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) is well overdue with the urgency of doing so increasing daily, AMMA will tell a senate inquiry this week.

The Building & Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Bill is now in its third iteration, having first been tabled nearly three years ago in November 2013.

Despite numerous attempts by the current and former Coalition governments, the bill has been repeatedly rejected in the senate and is currently before its third senate committee inquiry.

AMMA’s written submission to the inquiry will argue that, in the same way as the original bill has not changed, nor have the cultures and conduct that require a strong industry regulator.

“The problem has been articulated, and a proven solution proposed in legislation,” AMMA will say.

“It is now up to the senate to apply a proven solution to remediate the problems it has been shown; and the urgency of doing so increases daily.”

AMMA’s submission will also point to a new report by the Menzies Research Centre, which asserts that following the ABCC’s abolition in June 2012, days lost to industrial action have increased by 34 per cent.

Bill’s provisions remain unchanged

The federal government tabled the third identical version of the bill on 31 August 2016 – the week the new parliament resumed.

The newly re-tabled bill, as with previous versions, seeks to reinstate the former powers of the ABCC along with the former provisions of the Building & Construction Industry Improvement Act (BCII Act), with some modifications.

In particular, the bill seeks to restore those parts of the BCII Act that provided for:

  • higher penalties for unlawful conduct by building industry participants;
  • stronger prosecutorial powers for the inspectorate and its director;
  • a broader definition of building work;
  • greater scope for injunctions to stop unlawful industrial action;
  • stronger anti-coercion measures;
  • more effective compulsory information gathering powers; and
  • greater independence of the inspectorate.

Other provisions in the bill seek:

  • its regulation to be extended to some offshore construction projects;
  • strict rules around unlawful picketing;
  • bolstered rules around taking industrial action that seek to hold unions more accountable for their members’ conduct; and
  • a reverse onus of proof applied to some coercive and unlawful activities as well as to individuals seeking to stop work on alleged health and safety grounds.

If it passes, the legislation would repeal and replace the Fair Work (Building Industry) Act 2012 as well as regulate various aspects of building industry conduct currently regulated by the Fair Work Act 2009 (but formerly regulated by the BCII Act).

The Senate Education and Employment Legislation Committee is due to report on the bill by 14 October 2016. AMMA’s submission will be posted to the committee’s website in due course.

Click here to view the newly re-tabled bill.