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OPINION: ABCC SPELLS CONTEMPT FOR WORKERS, THURSDAY, 27 OCTOBER, 2016

October 27, 2016

DR ANNE ALY MP
FEDERAL MEMBER FOR COWAN

 

ABCC SPELLS CONTEMPT FOR WORKERS 

First we were told that young people couldn’t afford to buy into the housing market because they didn’t have rich parents.

Then, last week in Parliament, Scott Morrison tried to tell Australia that young people couldn’t afford housing because of the CFMEU.

In trying to mount its argument for the ABCC, the Government has blamed the CFMEU for everything from increasing housing prices and building costs, to intimidating and bullying, to over inflating workers’ wages. The latter is particularly bizarre, considering that the Attorney General’s Department employed no less than 37 new appointments just before the election at salaries of over $300,000 each with no checks, no processes and no examination of possible conflicts of interest.

But then again, this is the Government of ‘do as I say, not as I do’.

According to the Liberal Government, the ABCC will not only increase profits, it will also decrease prices, and it will stop excessive wages while also increasing wages. Confused? You should be. The argument for the ABCC is not built on reason, logic, need or even economic rationality. Instead, it is about drawing political battle lines between Labor and a Liberal Government that is undeniably anti-worker.

While the Government continues to attack the CFMEU with accusations of thuggery, workers continue to die. When Malcolm Turnbull was scrambling together the anti-worker ABCC legislation, the CFMEU was protecting workers from asbestos-containing material in Perth’s children’s hospital. Every worker deserves to get home safe to their families, and the ABCC will put that safety at risk.

During the Howard era when the ABCC was first introduced, construction worker deaths were at a 10 year high. The proposed ABCC 2.0 threatens the safety and security of every single worker and their fundamental human right to a safe workplace. It would also undermine other workers’ rights because it could introduce extraordinary powers of law enforcement that only apply to a single industry including:

  • forcing workers to give evidence and produce documents without representation of a chosen lawyer;
  • allowing ABCC representatives to enter premises without a warrant and impose extraordinary fines reserved only to the building and construction industry;
  • reversing the onus of proof onto workers; and
  • most disturbingly, introducing penalties for picketing and industrial action effectively silencing workers and their Unions.

Another one of the Government’s erratic arguments is that the re-introduction of the ABCC will resolve unlawfulness and illegal activities on worksites. It beggars belief that the Government doesn’t know how the judicial system or existing law enforcement agencies could work to rectify these concerns.

These false arguments put forward by the Government that somehow the ABCC will boost productivity while solving problems of corruption and excessive costs have been disproven time and time again. Make no mistake, the ABCC will not improve productivity, create new jobs or stamp out corruption. What it will do is make construction sites less safe and strip away workers’ rights.

This is Australia. This is 2016. A fair and equal society – the kind of Australia I am proud to be a part of and the kind of Australia the Labor Party wants to see – does not compromise the rights of its workers for the sake of a bitter and contemptuous political war against Unions.

These workers are not just collateral damage in the Government’s war against Unions. They are real people with families and children who deserve to have their voices heard, who deserve a decent wage, and who deserve to get home safe.

And let me tell you this: if my boys were working on construction sites, I would be damn glad the CFMEU was there looking out for them.

 

This piece was first published in the Labor Herald on Thursday, 27 October, 2016.