Master Builders call for reinstatement of ABCC

The construction association is funding a national campaign pressuring Senate crossbenchers to prevent trade union "thuggery"

Master Builders Australia has issued a public challenge to Senate crossbenchers, pressuring them to back the reinstatement of the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC).

The national campaign targets Senators Jacqui Lambie, Nick Xenophon, Bob Day, David Leyonhjelm, Glenn Lazarus, Ricky Muir and John Madigan, many of whom said they would join Labor and the Greens to vote down the ABCC bill in the Senate.

Established by the Howard government in 2003 following the Cole Royal Commission into the construction industry, the commission was abolished by the Gillard government in May 2012 and replaced with the Fair Work Building and Construction Inspectorate later that year.

Advertisements for the campaign ran in national and metropolitan newspapers in every state and territory on Monday, March 16. Master Builders’ president Trevor Evans told members he hoped the commission's reinstatement would put an end to bullying.

"Master Builders is asking the crossbench senators to have the courage of their convictions and vote in the best interests of their communities," wrote Mr Evans.

"Senators have a higher duty to the nation and should vote for stronger laws to support lawful behaviour on building sites."

Referring to recent activity related to the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), Mr Evans says the Gyles and Cole Royal Commissions, the Wilcox Inquiry and the Productivity Commission have all found there to be an undeniable link between bullying and higher costs of public infrastructure paid by the community.

“Unions have rights but they also have responsibilities,” writes Mr Evans. “Master Builders wants the crossbench Senators to… stand up for the rights of the community, the million people who work in the building and construction industry and the thousands of suppliers who all too often also fall victim to the union’s thuggery.”

Prime Minister Tony Abbott lobbied for the commission’s reinstatement with members of the Senate crossbench at a 2014 meeting, after pledging to do so when in opposition. Employment Minister Eric Abetz says the government will bring on a vote on the bill in the next two weeks.

Dave Noonan, the national secretary of the CFMEU'S construction division told the Australian Financial Review that Mr Evan's comments were "hysterical nonsense" and did not address the real issues facing the industry such as poor safety, the "abuse" of 457 visa workers and the inability to create new apprenticeships.