Senate debates

Monday, 24 November 2014

Questions without Notice

Australian Building and Construction Commission

2:18 pm

Photo of Eric AbetzEric Abetz (Tasmania, Liberal Party, Minister for Employment) Share this | Hansard source

I thank Senator McKenzie for her question and recognise her longstanding interest in this issue of restoring the rule of law to our construction sites.

The proposed compulsory examination powers of a re-established Australian Building and Construction Commission are not at all novel; in fact, they already exist under Labor's own Fair Work Building Industry Inspectorate—they actually voted for them, believe it or not. That was established by the former Labor government. These sorts of powers are vested in APRA, ASIC, Centrelink, Medicare and the Australian Taxation Office.

Witnesses summonsed by the ATO have no specified privilege against self-incrimination, no specified right to legal representation and no specified right of review. Witnesses to the ABCC do. The government has included within its legislation to re-establish the ABCC protections for witnesses that far exceed those afforded to witnesses before the tax office.

Witnesses invited to assist the ABCC will be expressly entitled to legal representation. Any evidence given in an interview cannot be used against that person in proceedings. Unlike the ATO, the ABCC will be required to issue written notice at least 14 days in advance, setting out the time, place and manner in which the meeting will take place, including reimbursement of expenses.

Witnesses invited to assist the ABCC will enjoy the strongest regulatory protections available under Australian law—stronger than any other Commonwealth agency. So one wonders why the Australian Labor Party and Mr Andrews in Victoria are so implacably opposed to the reintroduction of the ABCC. (Time expired)


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