Australian Building and Construction Commission


I rise to speak to the motion, which should be opposed. There is something in the DNA of those opposite. They cannot get rid of it, no matter how much damage they do to themselves. It is in the DNA of those opposite to pick a fight with the workers of the state of Queensland. They do it in this place just about every sitting day, so it is no surprise to see a motion of this nature before the House this eveninga continuation of a tedious, no-ideas attack on workers.

It is almost worse than that. I think those opposite are fixated on attacking workers. For those on the other side, the idea that working men and working women can come together and try to achieve better outcomes for themselves, better outcomes for their families and better outcomes for the next generation is a philosophy that should be stamped out. Everything we hear from those opposite is that it is all a union conspiracy.

It is their leader in Canberra, Malcolm Turnbull, who put this issue front and centre after, I note, already being knocked back by the previous Senate. He called a double dissolution election on this issue, but there was hardly a whisper about the ABCC in June 2016. Even Malcolm Turnbull realised that you cannot attack Australian workers and expect them not to notice. You cannot support the establishment of the ABCC and expect workers to not think long and hard about why a government would attack them.

This state is home to a construction industry worth about $44 billion annually. It is an industry that supports over 200,000 Queenslanders, providing security for their families. It is an industry that built this state long before John Howard, long before Tony Abbott and long before Malcolm Turnbull and it will continue to build this state long after those opposite are gone.

As the minister responsible for construction regulation, I work with leaders in the construction industry. That work is focused on building confidence in construction. I am working with the industry to make sure the sector continues to grow. As minister I meet regularly with industry groups, with construction companies, with subbies and with tradiesalmost every day. They broadly talk to me about the industry and I listen. Do members know what? In none of those conversations has anyone ever advocated for the return of the ABCC. The only people talking about the ABCC are those in the LNP. I can inform the House what the industry does talk to me about. What they are interested in is fixing up the culture of non-payment in the industry. They want to work together to deal with the scourge of imported nonconforming building products. They talk with me about the infrastructure and construction pipeline that the Palaszczuk government is delivering for Queensland. The jobs that this government is delivering for Queensland are what the construction industry want to talk about. The ABCC is not their priority. That makes sense because the ABCC was never effective in the role it was meant to play. 

We heard from the LNP the first time around that productivity was supposed to increase under the ABCC. They said that it was meant to bring in a glorious age of productivity in the construction sector. What happened? Nada. It had been repeatedly found that the ABCC failed abysmally when it came to productivity improvement in the construction industry. Even the Productivity Commission could not find any evidence of productivity improvements. It was a dud.

The ABCC did have one profound effect. It increased deaths and injuries in the construction industry across the nation. Those opposite are not the ones who will mourn a workmate killed on a construction site. Those opposite are not the ones who have to call the family to deliver the heartbreaking news. It is pretty easy for people to sit in this room, or in Parliament House in Canberra for that matter, and declare war on workers when you never have to meet the casualties of that war. It seems that those opposite have no consideration for what it is like for someone to lose a workmatea brother, a sister, a fatheron a construction site. I find that deplorable.

Those opposite are fixated on union bashing. In 2007, when the ABCC was last in place under the Howard government, what did we see? We saw worker deaths on construction sites hit a 10-year high, with 51 workers killed. The worst element of the proposed ABCC is the fine workers are hit with after acting on workplace health and safety concernsfining a worker for acting on workplace health and safety concerns $36,000.

This is a vision that Queenslanders will not accept. It is a dark vision that Queenslanders completely rejected at the last state election. It is consistent with their way of government. I sincerely hope that the Senate rejects the ABCC. 

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