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Restoring the construction watchdog ABCC: experts respond

David Peetz and others comment in The Conversation (1.12.16) about the reintroduciton of the Australian Building and Construction Commission, after the Senate ultimately passed the Turnbull Government’s legislation to re-establish the construciton industry watchdog.

‘Amendments agreed to by the government mean that the ABCC looks like it will, in effect, have virtually no more powers than Labor’s Fair Work Building Industry Inspectorate.

‘The main difference between the two bodies (as staff will simply transfer) is that the ABCC legislation will give effect to the government’s building industry code. That requires all companies doing construction or related work for the Commonwealth to follow the code’s policies on trade unionism, especially in the content of their enterprise bargaining agreements (EBAs). If firms don’t comply, they won’t get any Commonwealth work.

‘However, the code itself will be delayed. Whereas previously it was, in effect, retrospective, employers will now have until the end of November 2018 to negotiate new EBAs, so most existing EBAs will not be affected.

‘… Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull invested so much political capital in the ABCC bill that he had to get it passed, no matter the cost. The headlines may be favourable for a day or two. But these developments could further undermine his credibility with the Liberal Party base, particularly if the code is disallowed.’

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