Senate debates

Tuesday, 26 August 2014


Building and Construction Industry

7:29 pm

Photo of Doug CameronDoug Cameron (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Human Services) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to tonight in the adjournment to talk briefly about the Royal Commission into the Building and Construction Industry. It is quite clear to me that this is a political attack on the trade union movement by the coalition government that has been designed to weaken workers' capacity in the building and construction industry to collectively bargain and have decent rights and rates of pay in that industry. I am not sure how much of the political donations that are in the secret coalition fund have come from the building and construction sector, but I would hazard a guess that it is a fair amount.

As we watch the building and construction industry go about its political agenda in support of the coalition's position, it is clear that they are not dealing with the key issues for the building and construction industry. I want to draw the Senate's attention to the Kingsway construction report of insolvencies in the industry between 2010 and 2011. It has the latest figures that are available. We hear so much about the union movement and the construction industry. We hear from the coalition about thuggery. They set up the ABCC and have some of the most politically motivated public servants in the country working for them. They gave the ABCC more funding and they want to take money away from pensioners. Yet the key issue in the construction industry is the number of insolvencies. There were 1,862 insolvencies in the financial year 2010-11. Twenty-three per cent of all insolvencies in this country were in the construction sector. Fifty-four per cent of the construction insolvencies occurred in New South Wales.

You have to listen to the figure of $2.64 billion when you talk about productivity and economic issues—that is the estimated amount of money lost by creditors in construction related insolvencies annually. That is $2.64 billion not being paid in the construction industry. Is there any reason why you would not have organised crime trying to get in there and heavy people not paying their debts to get a small percentage of this insolvency money in the industry? Is there any reason why you will not see bikies in the industry using standover tactics to gain money back for some creditors and industry? Just a small percentage of $2.64 billion would mean a thriving standover industry for bikies and organised crime trying to gain back owed money for people in the construction industry.

I suppose if the coalition were talking about this issue they would try to blame the CFMEU for some of the insolvencies in the industry. But when ASIC do an insolvency they document what the insolvency is about. In the building and construction industry, six issues are most commonly cited by those companies that have insolvencies: (1) inadequate cash flow or high cash use, with cash flowing around the industry without proper tax being paid and the like; (2) poor strategic management of business—businesses are not strategic and there is bad management in the sector; (3) poor financial control, including lack of records; (4) poor economic conditions; (5) trading losses; and (6) undercapitalisation.

If you really want to look at the building and construction industry and understand what the problems are, you have to go back to insolvencies. You have to go back to poor management. You have to have a look at lack of capital. You have to look at the issues that ASIC have identified in that industry. You have to stop bashing up on the trade union movement in the industry. You should stop the royal commission. You should stop wasting money on the royal commission. If you want a royal commission, do one into insolvency in the industry. Let's deal with the issues there. Let's make sure people are paid and stop $2.64 billion not circulating in this community and creating jobs. That is the issue in the building and construction industry.