Coalition leader Tony Abbott has pledged to resurrect the Australian Building and Construction Commission within 100 days of winning government, but experts say the move is a step backwards.
The ABCC was absorbed into the Fair Work system in 2012, but a report prepared by Coalition MPs reportedly states the commission could be up and running shortly after the election, according to Fairfax.
But returning to the ABCC, industrial relations experts say, would be a backwards step.
“It’s not as though the ABCC was abolished and no one picked up its functions,” TressCox Lawyers partner Rachel Drew told SmartCompany this morning.
The Coalition has met with members of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, although Australian Council of Trade Unions assistant secretary Tim Lyons told Fairfax the meetings weren’t necessarily productive: “It’s fairly clear that they have got a fixed view about what they are going to do”.
While the Coalition has said for months it plans to reinstate the ABCC, this is the first indication it could do so extremely quickly.
Coalition MP Paul Fletcher, in charge of the report, was contacted but no response was available prior to publication.
The report comes a week after the Master Builders Association released a new Econtech report arguing reinstating the ABCC would deliver $7 billion in benefits to consumers.
The ABCC attracted controversy during its time for extreme investigatory powers. Disbanded in 2012, the ABCC’s responsibilities have been handed to the Fair Work Building and Construction inspectorate, albeit with less wide-ranging powers.
Drew says there were good reasons why the ABCC was abolished, as there were “issues of whether or not it was acting impartially”.
“I could understand if they want to change the role of the current commission, or to make some changes,” she says.
“The building and construction industry is a big enough industry that it needs its own commission. But to return to the ABCC itself just seems like a backwards step.”
Reinstating the ABCC is just one part of the Coalition’s industrial relations policy, which includes changing bargaining rules, allowing more changes to individual flexibility agreements, creating an appeal division of Fair Work and ordering a Productivity Commission review of Fair Work laws.