ABCC necessary to stop CFMEU lawlessness

QUEENSLAND’S militant Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union is undermining a successful Commonwealth Games in 2018, when the Gold Coast becomes the first regional Australian city to host the event.

I am very confident the organisers, enthusiastic volunteers and a welcoming local population will do their part to ensure the Games – Australia’s largest sporting event this decade – will be a success.

I’m worried, though, that the CFMEU is sitting on its hands rather than standing on its feet.

In May, CFMEU officers organised almost 60 hours of stop-work meetings at the Carrara Sports Precinct, putting critical deadlines at risk and costing the head contractor $700,000. During these stoppages, CFMEU members held barbecues while they were on the clock, taking home full pay.

Games chairman Peter Beattie assures us that “some fat” has been factored in to allow for delays. But why should taxpayers accept being fleeced or having their Games held to ransom?

It’s not just the Commonwealth Games for which Queenslanders pay the price for the CFMEU’s thuggery and toxic culture. In recent years, the union and its officials have been found guilty of unlawful conduct on numerous building sites across southeast Queensland, including the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, Brisbane Airport, the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, Pacific Fair Shopping Centre, and even Brisbane Common Ground – a housing project for low-income people.

While Commonwealth Games chairman Peter Beattie says some fat has been factored in to allow for construction delays, taxpayers shouldn’t have to accept them as read.

Around Australia, more than $8 million in fines have been imposed on the CFMEU in recent years. However, as judges have observed, these penalties are not nearly enough for a union that treats law-breaking as part of its business model and fines akin to parking tickets – simply a cost of doing business.

This helps explain why two-thirds of working days lost to industrial action are in the construction industry.

Master Builders Australia estimates building costs are up to 30 per cent higher due to industrial action on building sites. In other words, militant unions are making it more expensive to build hospitals, schools and roads – or international sports facilities.

Australia can’t afford such lawlessness and dysfunction in our third-largest industry.

Former housing minister Karen Struthers at the Brisbane Common Ground site – one of many where the CFMEU has been found guilty of unlawful conduct in recent years.

All of us rely on the 1 million workers – including 213,000 Queenslanders – who devote their energy and enterprise to building the infrastructure we use every day. When there’s a problem with the construction industry, it flows through our whole economy. And there is a big problem.

That’s why we must restore the Australian Building and Construction Commission, which has a proven record in enforcing the law and ensuring unlawful action is properly investigated, dealt with and penalised.

The ABCC was established by John Howard in 2005 but abolished by Bill Shorten (as workplace relations minister) in 2012.

During the seven years the ABCC was in place, construction industry productivity increased by 20 per cent.

The ABCC was established by John Howard in 2005 to ensure unlawful union action was properly investigated, dealt with and penalised.

Since the ABCC’s abolition, productivity has flatlined, while the rate of disputes in the sector has increased by 40 per cent. In all other industries, the rate of disputes has declined by 33 per cent.

At the 2018 Gold Coast Games, we will take pride in Australian athletes who strive to perform to the best of their ability. At the same time, we will expect and respect fair play.

So it should be with the Australian economy and one of its key players – the construction industry.

By restoring the ABCC, we can create a better construction industry, which in turn will build a stronger Queensland.