11-13 May 2021
Darling Harbour, ICC SYDNEY

New push to re-establish Australian Building and Construction Commission

Amid rumours of corruption across the Australian construction landscape, building firms and industry bodies have renewed the call to re-establish the Australian Building and Construction Commission.

The Gillard government replaced the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) in 2012 with the Fair Work Building and Construction Inspectorate. Since then the Abbott government has committed to re-establishing the ABCC within 100 days of its election.

The role of the ABCC as defined by the Australian Government “…was to monitor and promote appropriate standards of conduct throughout the building and construction industry”.

The ABCC worked to “…provide an improved workplace relations framework for building work to ensure that building work is carried out fairly, efficiently and productively for the benefit of all building industry participants and for the benefit of the Australian economy as a whole.”

The ABCC worked to achieve this objective in two ways; by educating industry participants about appropriate conduct; and investigating suspected contraventions of workplace laws, federal agreements, awards and orders of Fair Work Australia.

The underlying difference between the two governing bodies is a reduction in powers and penalties under the Gillard structure, but as more corruption rumours circulate, the coalition is under pressure to restore the ABCC.

Recreating the ABCC is not as straightforward as it sounds, with the Greens and Labor vowing to oppose any legislation required to restore the commission and the unions also signalling they will fight changes, according to the Australian Financial Review.

The news source further states that the Master Builders Association released an updated study, which claimed the re-establishment of the ABCC would deliver $7.5 billion in benefits for consumers, and that construction productivity rose 9.2 per cent between 2005 and 2012 under its watch. The findings by the consultancy firm Econtech, which now operates as Independent Economics, claimed that the benefits would be delivered to consumers through a lift in the real wages and a cut in personal income tax rates.

The Coalition has also pledged to reverse funding cuts made to the construction watchdog under Labor, promising an additional $36 million over four years to the restored ABCC. Labor cut $24 million in funding over four years from the inspectorate in the last budget and cut 45 staff from the agency.

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