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Industry 'strongly supports' Construction Industry Amendment Bill 2015

27 March, 2015

"Industry strongly supports the Construction Industry Amendment (Protecting Witnesses) Bill 2015 which was introduced into Parliament late yesterday (25 March)," Australian Industry Group Chief Executive Innes Willox has asserted.

"This short and simple Bill will prevent the longstanding existing powers of the construction industry Regulator expiring on 1 June 2015 while discussions continue between the Government and the Crossbenchers on the necessary more comprehensive reforms.

"The compulsory examination powers of the Regulator (currently called Fair Work Building and Construction, but formerly called the Australian Building and Construction Commissioner – ABCC), are fair, reasonable and necessary.  

"The powers:

  • Have been in place since June 2005 and have operated fairly and appropriately throughout this whole period
  • Are similar to those possessed by ASIC, the ACCC and the ATO
  • Were a key recommendation of the Cole Royal Commission into the Building and Construction Industry
  • Are subject to oversight by the Commonwealth Ombudsman who must monitor and review the exercise of the examination powers, including receiving a copy of all examination notices, and receiving a report, video recording and transcript of every examination.  The Ombudsman is required to report to Parliament annually on the use of the examination powers and, in each annual report, the Ombudsman has concluded that all examinations have been conducted in accordance with legislative requirements and best practice principles.

"History shows that the CFMEU will not cooperate with the Regulator unless the compulsory examination powers exist.  Prior to the powers being implemented in June 2005, the CFMEU adopted a blanket policy of its officers, staff and delegates refusing to be interviewed by the Regulator, which frustrated many investigations into unlawful conduct.

"Many company witnesses prefer to be served with a compulsory examination notice by the Regulator to reduce union coercion and intimidation against them for giving evidence in cases.

"The Australian Industry Group urges all Opposition and Crossbench Senators to put the community's interests first and to support this Bill, as well as supporting the Building and Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Bill 2013 which would deliver vital, more comprehensive reforms. Unlawful and inappropriate conduct on construction sites drives up construction costs for vital public infrastructure," Willox said.

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