Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 14 Hansard (Wednesday, 23 November 2005) . . Page.. 4555 ..
DR FOSKEY: We will hear all about it soon. The reason the government wanted the regulations enforced so quickly was that it could set the building industry task force to work sooner, forcing building workers to give evidence about stop-work meetings and other union activities so that they could be prosecuted retrospectively under the government’s construction act that could not be passed until the government had its Senate majority. Now, with all the industrial relations changes taking place, I wonder what effect this diluted right to protest has had on construction workers. Has it prevented them joining the campaign against WorkChoices? I guess, with their limited ability to speak up, we may never know.
In closing, I thank Mr Gentleman for bringing forward this motion. I hope that he and other members of the Assembly who are supporting this motion can give us some ideas as to how we can counteract the negative impact that these regulations and this act is having on ACT citizens and what we can learn from this to help us fight the broader industrial relations reform that is planned by the federal government.
MR MULCAHY (Molonglo) (5.49): I can forgive Dr Foskey for not having much knowledge of the history of the building industry in Australia and for assuming that all these measures that are being spoken about are simply to stop people demonstrating against the federal government’s industrial reform program. I am afraid I do not accept that somebody with a background such as Mr Gentleman’s could be quite so naive in relation to all of the elements that brought this legislation into the commonwealth parliament.
Mr Hargreaves: He did not work for the tobacco industry.
MR MULCAHY: I am not sure what that has got to do with building sites, apart from smokos. We are all aware of the findings of the Cole royal commission into the building and construction industry. Commissioner Cole stated that it was universally accepted by governments, by employers and by unions that OH&S is of fundamental importance to the industry. Statistics show that people working in the industry are more than twice as likely to be killed at work than the Australian all-industries average and that the economic cost of workplace accidents to workers, employers and the community is estimated to be more than $30 billion each year.
It was for this very reason that, on 12 September, the Building and Construction Industry Improvement Act was given royal assent. The act incorporates key elements of the Australian government’s response to the Cole royal commission’s report. Those elements include establishing an office of the Australian Building and Construction Commissioner. It has provisions for dealing with unlawful industrial action, including coercion in relation to certified agreement negotiations. It also deals with the establishment of the Federal Safety Commissioner to oversee an accreditation scheme that contractors undertaking Australian government-funded work will be required to observe. These are the things that we have been hearing for the last 30 minutes or 20 minutes—that industrial safety is the paramount concern of my colleagues opposite and the Greens—but here are measures designed to deal with this that are being howled down.