Senate debates

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

6:12 pm

Photo of Glenn LazarusGlenn Lazarus (Queensland, Independent) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to speak on the Building and Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Bill 2013 [No. 2]. I will be brief in my speech tonight. I think everybody knows my position in relation to the ABCC. I certainly will not be supporting it in its current form. The bill is nothing more than a political football being used by the coalition to attack the unions and the Labor Party in order to gain political advantage. It is a sad day when the legislation we deal with this in this establishment is only considered because it delivers a political benefit to one party or another.

This parliament was created by people many years ago who believed that representatives of the people should deal with bills and initiatives of benefit to the people and the future of this country. I am of the view that many politicians in this parliament do not deserve to be here. They do not deserve to be here because they do not care about anyone else except themselves or their parties. They do not deserve to be here because they see politics as a game, not as a mechanism to pursue a better country. I hope that when I depart this place I am remembered for being a good representative. I do not want to be remembered for being a politician, because I am not one. I am not here to play games; I genuinely want to achieve good outcomes for the people of Queensland.

I have worked my way through the ABCC bill with the help of my advisers, and I do not like the bill. Apart from the fact that it is a political football, the bill does nothing to protect and progress the rights of workers. At the end of the day, I am concerned about one thing and one thing only—protecting and progressing the rights of the workers. If this bill protected and progressed the rights of workers in the workplace I would support it but, sadly, it does not. All it does, in my view, is to reduce the rights of workers. In the process it targets one slice of one industry for the purpose of political gain. Yes, it aims to address misconduct and corruption, but it does this by eroding the rights of workers. It compels them to give evidence and to be interviewed, stripping them of their rights to representation from a lawyer of their choosing. It forces workers to produce documents or information associated with investigations and it reverses the onus of proof by transferring responsibility to workers to prove they are complying with the law. I could go on, as there are many more areas where this bill, in my opinion, infringes on our basic human rights and the basic rights of workers.

In summary, my view is that this could be a very, very good bill. It could be broadened to deal with all misconduct across all industries and all areas of industry. We desperately need a national corruption and misconduct watchdog. This bill, if broadened, would deliver this very outcome.

Big companies go broke every day, leaving contractors, mum-and-dad businesses and workers out of pocket and without pay. These companies simply set up again a few weeks later under different names as phoenix businesses and start all over again. The only people that get hurt are contractors and workers. Businesses are concerned about profits, government are concerned about revenue, unions are concerned about people. This bill does nothing to address the genuine misconduct and corruption across the big end of town and it does nothing to address the murky behaviour of large businesses in this sector. Rather, it targets unions by attacking the rights of workers.

The building sector is a dangerous industry and workers are hurt regularly. When workers are hurt or die, it is not the government that contacts and supports the family; it is not the employer or the business involved; it is not the insurance company. It is the union. Unions do not get everything right, but they do a lot of good. We need to stop the political attacks, get back to the basics and expand the bill to create a national corruption and misconduct watchdog, and address issues across every industry. All that matters to me is that workers are safe and are able to go to work and come home safe after every day to their families.

These are things that matter to all Australians. It is why I will not be supporting the ABCC in its current form. The threat of a double dissolution will not change my mind, and I will not be blackmailed. Unlike many politicians in this place, I am here to represent the people. That is exactly what I am doing—standing up for hardworking Australians who need help and who need someone to stand up for them.


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