Wednesday, 19 March 2014
Building and Construction Industry
I seek leave to amend general business notice of motion No. 180 standing in my name as circulated in the chamber.
I move the motion as amended:
That the Senate—
(a) notes that:
(i) a number of serious safety breaches have occurred on Sydney commercial construction sites over the past 18 months, including the Barangaroo fire, the tower crane fire at the UTS building and the collapse of scaffolding at Mascot,
(ii) the increasing numbers of contractors and sub-contractors employed on large construction projects has been linked to insufficient control over safety practices,
(iv) the historic role construction unions played in winning support for occupational health and safety legislation and their ongoing role in promoting workplace safety;
(b) supports the call of unions for an urgent safety audit of major construction sites across Sydney; and
(c) urges the New South Wales Minister for Finance and Services, Mr Andrew Constance, to initiate this audit and allocate extra resources as required for the quick completion of this task.
Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President. The coalition believes that this is rightly a matter for the New South Wales government and not a matter for the Senate. WorkCover in New South Wales, last week, launched a six-week work health and safety blitz of commercial construction sites across Sydney and of hotspots in regional New South Wales. WorkCover inspectors are already visiting sites across the CBD, greater Sydney metropolitan area and regional centres to check that companies are complying with construction health and safety requirements to ensure the work health, safety and wellbeing of workers and the community. We would encourage anyone with concerns about safety on construction sites in New South Wales to contact WorkCover.
This notion and the attitude of the coalition does provide a window into the ugly side of the coalition's obsession with weakening unions. Weaker unions reduce the organised voice of working people standing up for job safety. The key role of Unions NSW and the CFMEU is to continue the work that they have done for many decades in trying to clear up dangerous job sites. The deaths on our construction sites certainly bear out why this work is needed and why we need unions to be able to ensure that we have safe job sites. Over the six years, from October 2007 to January 2014, 15 people died on construction sites. In just two years, from February 2012 to January 2014, nine people died on construction sites. The numbers are increasing. I congratulate Unions NSW and the CFMEU in calling for this audit.
Question agreed to.