Senate debates

Thursday, 1 August 2019


Australian Building and Construction Commission; Consideration

5:50 pm

Photo of Raff CicconeRaff Ciccone (Victoria, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That the Senate take note of report 29 as listed on page 14.

I would like to speak on the Australian Building and Construction Commission report this evening. When the ABCC came into effect in December 2016, Australians were under no illusions that the establishment of this body represented the opening salvo of a government determined to undermine their rights at work. It will come as no surprise that since that time the ABCC has worked to curtail workers' rights to organise, as is well illustrated by this report. In the report, we can see that of the 138 matters investigated by the commission in the third quarter of 2018-19 almost two-thirds of them related to complaints by building and construction bosses against their workers and their representatives.

To provide some context to those figures, in the same financial year the commission undertook a bare11 investigations into sham contracting. This is despite the fact that sham contracting is currently the subject of possibly the largest employment class action commenced in Australia to date, worth an estimated $400 million.

We know that this government, this Liberal coalition government, is no friend of working people. We know from the HILDA survey released earlier this week that over the last six years of the Liberal government household incomes and living standards have gone backwards. Every day all Australians are losing their rights at work and their entitlements to a workplace that is both safe and fair.

In another case illustrated in the report, the ABCC also had a number of issues relating to right of entry. There was a right of entry complaint raised by an employer and the report shows that the ABCC incurred initial costs of close to $25,700. That's $26,000 of taxpayer money spent investigating something akin to a union rep talking to their workers and members in the workplace.

We know, on this side of the House, that unions play an important role in achieving what many Australians take for granted. Let us not forget that it was the movement that fought and won for Australian workers to have entitlements to their annual leave, sick leave, superannuation and workers compensation. When the ABCC seeks to undermine the important role that unions play in keeping our economy fair, it undermines the position of every Australian worker.

When the ABCC seeks to investigate right of entry complaints by bosses at a rate far in excess of that in which it investigates wage and entitlement complaints against the bosses, as this report shows, there's something amiss.

I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.