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Issue # 1417      1 July 2009

From their own mouths

Kevin Andrews 2005

Liberal Party Workplace Relations Minister in his second reading speech to the Building and Construction Industry Improvement Bill 2005 (BCII Bill) which established the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC).

“This bill is a specifically targeted legislative measure to address the unlawful conduct of unions.”

“… industrial action taken by unions to pursue the early negotiation of new agreements would not only be unprotected but also unlawful.”

“This bill seeks to implement a framework where unlawful industrial action is not tolerated and those taking such action are brought to account for their lawlessness.”

In addition to fines of $22,000 for workers and $110,00 for unions, “parties who take unlawful action may be ordered by a court to pay substantial uncapped compensation to any person affected by the unlawful industrial action.”

Kevin Andrews 2003

Liberal Party Workplace Relations Minister, moving a similar bill which was defeated.

The bill “represents a unique opportunity to implement lasting cultural reform in this industry, and the case for reform is compelling.”

“At the core of the [Cole] Royal Commission’s findings about the building and construction industry is an entrenched culture of lawlessness, coupled with widespread inappropriate practices that act against choice, productivity and safety.”

Julia Gillard 2009

Labor Workplace Relations Minister giving second reading speech to her bill amending the BCII Act and transferring the ABCC to Fair Work Australia

“I am … disappointed that there are still pockets of the industry where people think they are above the law, where people engage in intimidation and violence.”

“There is a clear and immediate need to drive cultural change in some key areas of the industry.”

“… ensuring that the resources of the ABCC and from 1 February 2010 the building inspectorate are focused on those areas that have a demonstrated culture of unlawful behaviour.”

“it meets our election promise to keep a strong cop on the beat for the benefit of the industry and the economy.”

“I am satisfied there is still such a level of industrial unlawfulness in the building and construction …, that it would be inadvisable not to empower the [Specialist Division] to undertake compulsory interrogation. The reality is that, without such a power, some types of contravention would be almost impossible to prove.”

Penny Wong 2005

Labor MP on BCII Bill

“Criminal matters ought to be investigated by the police.”

“The bill places further restrictions upon employees and their unions from exercising their right to strike, which brings Australia into further breach of the relevant International Labour Organisation convention.”

“This bill potentially puts the health and safety of employees in this industry at risk by imposing financial penalties upon employees who cease to work in what they regard as an unsafe environment.”

“… we do not support the denial of civil liberties to innocent Australians simply because they work in the building industry and simply because this government wants to target these workers.”

“This bill will enable the ABCC to use coercive powers in investigating any breach of the Workplace Relations Act, award or agreement, including investigating ordinary industrial activities of unions, such as meetings with members, not just investigating alleged criminal activity.”

Come 2009, and Penny Wong stands firmly behind Gillard’s bill which addresses none of important issues she legitimately raised in 2005.

Greg Combet 2006

ACTU Secretary addressing ACTU Congress

“We are fighting for the future of our democracy, we are fighting for the future of our kids, we are fighting for a fair and just Australian society.

“And fight we will.

“We will not be intimidated by the Howard government, or their friends in the business community. And we will fight until we win. We will see these laws repealed. We will see John Howard off….

“We are clear about our values, and what we stand for. Our values define who we are and what we are fighting for.”

Come 2009, Labor parliamentary secretary Greg Combet backs the Gillard legislation telling unions to be “pragmatic”.

Simon Crean 2005

Labor MP, former ACTU president, during debate of BCII Bill

“The legislation is driven by ideology… The legislation takes away the right to collectively bargain and the right to strike. It effectively ensures that industrial action in the building and construction industry is unlawful…”

Come 2009, and now Trade Minister Crean accused unions of pursuing a narrow agenda [the interests of the working class! – Ed.] and opposed their call to wind back the powers of the ABCC. The government “cannot condone violence, and nor should it.”

Rachel Siewert 2005

Australian Greens Senator – Second reading speech of BCII Bill

“This bill singles out a group of people — one class of citizens; in this case, our building and construction workers — and then systematically undermines and removes their rights. Their right to silence, their freedom of speech, their right to privacy, their right to take considered industrial action and their right to be treated as innocent until proven guilty are all undermined or removed by this bill.”

“Why is the government singling out and demonising one particular group of workers? Why is one set of citizens having its rights removed? We all know the government’s agenda — it is embarking on a concerted attack on unions. It has begun this attack by singling out one of the strongest unions. In this case, it is attacking a union that has a history of showing solidarity with other workers and ensuring that support for safety and collective bargaining in their workplace is strong. It is designed to slow down, frustrate and disempower a group of workers that it knows will oppose its wider anti-worker agenda.”

The Australian Greens moved a bill to repeal the BCII Act and restore workplace rights in 2008. Needless to say, it did not receive the support of Labor or the Coalition.

Come 2009, the Greens retain their principled stand in defence of trade union rights and workers’ interests.

Master Builders Association 2008

Victorian executive director Brian Welch, speaking on behalf of the building industry employers.

“The commission has delivered a golden era for the Australian construction industry.”

Next article No major crisis in the industry

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