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Issue #1678      March 25, 2015

ABCC Bill

The Coalition government’s bill to re-establish the construction policing body the ABCC looks doomed in its current form, with two cross-bench senators already telling Parliament they will vote against it and at least one more set to do the same.

The Senate’s second reading debate of the Building and Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Bill 2013 resumed this month, with independent Senators Jacqui Lambie and John Madigan both telling the Upper House they opposed it.

Senator Madigan said he did so because he believed in “equality before the law” and did “not believe one industry should be singled out simply because of the actions of some of its members”.

“I believe the majority of unionists and employers in this country are reputable, that the reputable employers and reputable unionists should hold the disreputable ones to account,” he said. Senator Lambie said she had “serious concerns and reservations” about the legislation, and it was clear its intent was “to target and punish unions and organised labour groups, while neglecting to impose the same set of rules and standards on corporate Australia”.

Given the Coalition needs six out of the eight cross-benchers to pass any legislation that the ALP and Greens both oppose, only one more in the “no” camp will defeat the bill and a spokesperson for Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party Senator Ricky Muir told Workplace Express he “remains opposed to the Bill and is unlikely to support it in its current form”.

Even in the event one of the three changes their mind, the bill’s compulsory examination powers are a probable stumbling block for other senators, particularly Liberal Democratic Party David Leyonhjelm, given his advocacy of a minimalist role for government.

The Coalition’s construction legislation would establish the ABCC with significantly broader powers than its initial incarnation, and extend its reach into offshore construction, the transport and supply of goods to building sites, and picketing.

The government introduced the Bill into the House of Representatives in November 2013, as one of its first major pieces of legislation.

Next article – Target Venezuela – “Electoral Integrity Project” brings the cold war to Sydney

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