Monday, 18 April 2016
Building and Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Bill 2013 [No. 2], Building and Construction Industry (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2013 [No. 2]; Second Reading
The two big topics of this week are tradies and truckies. I am delighted that the Senate majority wants to save 35,000 family-owned trucking firms—owner-operator truckies—from a body set up to make their lives a misery. The question is: will there be a Senate majority to save the hundreds of thousands of family-owned small business tradies from an environment that, too, makes their lives a misery? If it is good enough for truckies, why isn't it good enough for tradies?
I note some of my crossbench colleagues have called for the Australian Building and Construction Commissioned to be expanded into a national independent commission against corruption. I commend their commitment to corruption reform; however, these small-business tradespeople cannot wait the length of time it would take to rewrite the ABCC into a broader anti-corruption watchdog, even if the government agreed to that, which I believe it would not.
The proposed ABCC legislation relates to unlawful industrial action and unlawful picketing. This proposed legislation is, first and foremost, about unlawful industrial actions. I have said before that this is something like a STAR force in the police for special and aggressive criminality and unlawfulness. Television advertisements comparing ice dealers to construction workers are ridiculous. Rights to silence and protections against self-incrimination have been in decline all over the country, as the Institute of Public Affairs has pointed out. The advertisements demonstrate the desperation and misinformation of opponents of this legislation. I am more than happy to consider broader anti-corruption measures and support Senator Wang's select committee inquiry proposal. Sector-by-sector reform, including better resourcing of existing watchdogs, has to be an option, but not by holding construction workers hostage.
I have consistently supported the ABCC, well before a double dissolution was discussed. My fellow crossbenchers, Senators Leyonhjelm, Muir and Xenophon, have tabled amendments, well worth consideration in the committee stage. I heard Senator Muir's contribution earlier and commend his effort and his knowledge of this important debate, and I look forward to debate on his amendments.
I conclude by saying: as I have consistently said, I support the bill and its second reading and urge my colleagues to at least support that second reading—to consider these amendments and further debate.