Wednesday, 10 March 2010
International Labour Organisation Conventions
That the Senate—
- notes the International Labour Organisation’s ‘Report of the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations’ from the 99th Session of the International Labour Council;
- acknowledges that the Committee of Experts has consistently found that the powers and actions of the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) are contrary to the ‘Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948’ (No. 87) and the ‘Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949’ (No. 98) and in its most recent report found the actions of the ABCC inconsistent with the ‘Labour Inspection Convention, 1947’ (No. 81);
- further acknowledges that the Committee of Experts raises concerns about the compliance of the Fair Work Act 2009 (the Act) with the conventions of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), notably in respect of the right to strike and collective bargaining; and
- calls on the Government to:
- implement its election promise and abolish the ABCC, and
- review the Act to ensure its compliance with ILO conventions.
Thank you. The government opposes Senator Siewert’s motion. In doing so, I note that the ILO’s Committee of Experts recent report is one of the most favourable reports ever issued by the committee to an Australian government. On the senator’s first point, prior to the 2007 federal election the Rudd government made clear our intention to abolish the Australian Building and Construction Commission. Since our election we have consulted widely and introduced a balanced and sensible bill that meets this commitment. Despite the government’s mandate and the unprecedented level of consultation that preceded the bill, the opposition is opposing that bill. Importantly, even the construction industry acknowledges our mandate for change, with the Australian Constructors Association last week calling on the opposition and Independent senators to reach agreement with the government on the government’s legislative framework for the building industry.
In relation to the senator’s second point, the Committee of Experts report is in fact a strong endorsement of this government’s fair work system. I am pleased to advise the Senate that for the first time since 2001 the Committee of Experts has not expressed concern in relation to Australia’s compliance with ILO conventions and has acknowledged that the government’s Fair Work Act addresses the key concerns that the ILO repeatedly raised in relation to Work Choices.
I will make it very short. That the panel of experts report is the most favourable we have had in a while does not mean much given Australia’s record. That it is better than some of the others does not mean that the government are meeting their requirements or that it should not get rid of the ABCC. The government made a very clear promise they would abolish the ABCC by January this year. They have not done it. They have not met their promise. The current bill does not meet their promise—that is, to abolish the ABCC. It keeps most of the punitive approach of the ABCC legislation in, for a start, coercive powers. For the government to stand behind a report that is slightly better, which says they have done slightly better than they have in the past, means nothing. They have not met their promise to abolish the ABCC. That is a very clear breach of that promise.
That the motion (Senator Siewert’s) be agreed to.