House debates

Monday, 18 February 2019

Questions without Notice

Building and Construction Industry

2:45 pm

Photo of Ted O'BrienTed O'Brien (Fairfax, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Jobs and Industrial Relations and the Minister for Women. Will the minister update the House on how the government is acting to safeguard the security of workers and small businesses in the vital building and construction industry? How does this compare with alternative approaches to the rule of law in the industry?

Photo of Kelly O'DwyerKelly O'Dwyer (Higgins, Liberal Party, Minister for Jobs) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Fairfax for his question. Like every member on this side of the chamber, he is passionate about small and medium-sized family businesses because he understands the significance and importance to our economy of small and family-sized businesses. Now, of course, this is especially true in the construction and building industry. Close to one in 10 workers in this country rely on the building and construction industry for their jobs and for their income, and around 98 per cent of all of those businesses who are in the construction and building industry are, in fact, small and family businesses. It is absolutely imperative that those businesses are able to go about their work safe in the knowledge that they will be free from thuggery, from intimidation and from lawlessness. That is precisely why the government has introduced the strong building code. That is precisely why we have re-established the Australian and Building Construction Commission.

But, sadly, there are some who believes that the rules do not apply to them—that they are, in fact, above the rules. This, of course, includes the CFMMEU. The CFMMEU has been fined more than $16 million. They have been described by a Federal Court judge as one of the most recidivist organisations in Australian history, and they have currently around 77 officials currently before the courts for more than 850 suspected contraventions of the law. Now, of course, the best friend of the CFMMEU is the Leader of the Opposition, and the member for Fairfax probably well knows that the CFMMEU and their militancy, particularly in Queensland, has got to the most egregious point. We have learned that Queensland health and safety officials now refuse to attend 17 sites controlled by the CFMMEU, because they are concerned about their safety because of organisational violence. These are the safety inspectors there, looking after the safety of small businesses and the people that work for them, who do not feel safe going onto work sites in Queensland. If the safety inspectors do not feel safe, what hope is there for those small businesses and for the people that work for them?

The awful record of lawlessness and lawbreaking would be writ large if the Leader of the Opposition got his way and he abolished the Australian Building and Construction Commission. We would see this writ large nationally, and we on this side would not make lawbreakers lawmakers.