An overview of the Australian Building and Construction Commission
Industrial relations laws in the building and construction industry have again become a topic of highly charged and politicised national debate, with the current Government seeking to reinstate the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC). As we found out recently the failure of the Senate to pass the bill re-introducing the ABCC was the trigger for the Government announcing a double dissolution election to be held in July of this year.
What is the ABCC?
The ABCC was established by the Howard government in 2005 in response to recommendation made in the report of the Cole Royal Commission into the building and construction industry, which identified widespread disrespect for, disregard of and breach of the law and the “lack of power and resources existing regulatory bodies had to enforce the law.” By the passing of the Building and Construction Industry Improvement Act 2005, the ABCC was created and empowered to monitor, investigate and enforce breaches by building industry participants of federal industrial law, enterprise agreements and relevant building codes, and sought to improve the productivity of the industry.
Abolishment of the ABCC
In 2012, following the re-election of the Labor Government, the ABCC was abolished and replaced with a new construction industry regulator, the Fair Work Building and Construction (FWBC). The FWBC brought the building and construction industry under the Commonwealth’s Fair Work regime, reducing the scope of the investigative and enforcement powers given to the ABCC - including reduced penalties for industrial action.
Possible reinstatement of the ABCC
Following the Hayden Royal Commission into Union Corruption in April 2016, the current Government sought to reintroduce a bill re-establishing the ABCC; restoring its powers under the Act, including:
- Prohibiting the coercion of persons in relation to the engagement of contractors and employees, and coercion in relation to industrial instruments
- The ability to commence civil penalty proceedings against individuals or organisations who engaged in unlawful industrial action and unlawful picketing
- Power compelling a person to provide the Commissioner with information or document required by its investigations relating to suspected contravention of the of relevant act or a designated building law
- The ability for an inspector to enter and inspect premises, and interview any person.
At this stage, the reinstatement of the ABCC is in limbo, pending the election outcome. If the current Government is re-elected on 2 July, along with the number required to pass the bill in the Senate, the ABCC will no doubt replace its predecessor, the FWBC.
If you have any questions please contact:
Raymond Frangi, Associate
Phone: +61 2 9895 9218