Thursday, 16 February 2012
Building and Construction Industry Improvement Amendment (Transition to Fair Work) Bill 2011; Second Reading
I rise briefly to indicate that I will not be supporting the Building and Construction Industry Improvement Amendment (Transition to Fair Work) Bill 2011 at this time. I think timing is important, and anyone who follows economic indicators would know that the construction industry is one of the industries under the most pressure at the moment in a changing economy. That needs to be considered for all legislation that passes through this place. I note government is showing a lot of care and concern for the other industry most under threat at the moment—that is, the manufacturing industry. Government is holding jobs forums and providing subsidies to the car industry and to other manufacturing industries. I would hope there is the same consideration, care and concern for the construction industry, which is flatlining at the moment for a number of reasons. Therefore, the timing of these changes is particularly sensitive. I am not buying into the rights and wrongs of the ideology around whether it is fair that one industry or one union is targeted or whether coercive powers are good or bad, but I do think the timing of this legislation is of concern. We therefore need to be sensitive to some of the arguments around how we help the construction industry to improve and grow, rather than burdening it at a challenging time.
I note some of the comments made by people such as Heather Ridout from the Australian Industry Group, the Master Builders Australia and the Australian Constructors Association about some of the concerns that have been raised about the particulars of this bill. All of those comments need genuine consideration, particularly in the context of timing. If construction was flying and booming and the Australian economy had gone through change, then issues of fairness around how we deal with particular aspects of the work site might be considered in a different context; but the context of the moment is that the productivity agenda is the agenda for Australia in 2012. There are a couple of industries in particular that are struggling at the moment and that need the special attention of this place as to how we can do all we can to help them through some challenging times. Construction is definitely one of those industries of concern. I do not see this bill helping growth in the construction industry in 2012 in an environment where productivity is important. I see this as a further burden. Therefore, I will not be supporting it this year.