Govt Moves To Restore Worksite Watchdog

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November 14th, 2013

The federal government has introduced laws to resurrect the construction industry watchdog abolished by Labor last year.

Leader of the House Christopher Pyne on Thursday said the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) was needed to maintain the rule of law on worksites and improve productivity.

The coalition has long campaigned for the re-establishment of the ABCC, claiming its absence had resulted in a return to union militancy and a spike in construction industry disputes.

Mr Pyne said Australia couldn't afford to have an "inefficient and unstable" building and construction industry overrun by "lawlessness".

"The coalition government wholeheartedly believes that workers deserve to be able to go to work each day without the fear of being harassed, intimidated or the subject of violence," he told the House of Representatives.

If passed by parliament, the bill will prohibit unlawful industrial action, unlawful picketing and coercion and discrimination and apply tough new penalties for taking such action.

The legislation would also allow the ABCC to separate legitimate protests from unlawful and organised picketing aimed at disrupting building and construction work.

Mr Pyne said the building and construction sector provided the "worst examples" of industrial relations lawlessness before the former Howard government introduced the ABCC.

But he said former Labor workplace relations minister and now Opposition Leader Bill Shorten caved in to pressure from the unions and replaced the ABCC with a diminished regulator.

"This saw the bad old days return: wildcat stoppages, militant protests, demands from unions that their mates be employed on projects ahead of non-unionists," Mr Pyne said.

Employment Minister Eric Abetz said the changes would encourage high levels of employment in the vital sector and keep major national projects on track.

Debate on the Building and Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Bill 2013 and other subsequential bills was adjourned.

In the upper house, the government later tabled plans for a Senate inquiry to report back on the bills by December 2.