Victorian Government launches enquiry into building industry’s spiralling costs, criminal connections and “thuggish” behaviour

The Victorian Government will undertake a detailed investigation and report on compliance with the law and applicable codes of practice in the Victorian building and construction industry through the Construction Code Compliance Unit.

These terms of reference add to the work already being undertaken by the CCCU at the Premier’s request to provide an urgent report on the recent Grocon blockades.

The CCCU is already investigating the use of violence, intimidation or harassment within the industry, as well as breaches of industrial and other laws that may have occurred during the Grocon blockades, but it will now provide a further detailed report on practices “that create a tolerance of unlawful conduct”.

These include the possible involvement of organised crime elements within the industry, the current state of compliance with legal obligations and recommendations for future actions to enhance compliance with the law and the guidelines.

The Victorian Government also adheres to guidelines which require all building companies that tender for government work to commit to comply with all applicable legal obligations and to act to ensure that inappropriate or unlawful practices do not occur on their projects.

Victorian Finance Minister Robert Clark told reporters productive and law-abiding building and construction sites are vital for jobs and investment in Victoria.

“The troubles with the Grocon blockade are simply symptomatic of broader problems within the industry, and we want to get to the bottom of what’s going on with compliance with the law in the industry,” he said.

“Recent events have demonstrated that certain elements of the industry appear to consider themselves above the law.”

Clark said the government is determined to ensure that all participants in the building industry abide by the rule of law and the same standards of behaviour that apply to everyone else.

“Unlawful blockades, intimidation and harassment should have no place in any Victorian workplace,” he said.

However, Clark had to defend the investigation against questions about its likely impact, given the CCCU investigation will have no powers to compel witnesses and no real investigatory powers.

“Like all investigations, the Compliance Unit will be relying on people who are willing to come forward and provide information to the unit,” he said.

Clark said the Australian Building and Construction Commissioner, “when it was at its full strength”, had very good co-operation from industry players.

The Victorian Employers’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry has welcomed the enquiry and said the Grocon blockades highlighted the need for action.

Richard Clancy, executive director of industry policy at VECCI, called on the Federal Government to restore the office of the ABCC with a full suite of powers and to legislate so there is the power to fully prosecute parties who do not comply with the law and impose significant, effective penalties.

“The ABCC had proven to be a highly effective regulator that was driving cultural change and VECCI vehemently opposed the dismantling of the ABCC,” said Clancy.

He said Victoria needs projects delivered on time and on budget in compliance with the law.

“We know the costs of construction in Victoria are far greater than other states and by international standards,” Clancy said.

“Victoria cannot afford the economic and reputational damage that results from thuggish and unlawful behaviour.

“It is impacting on Victoria’s reputation as a place in which to build things and do business.”

The CCCU is to provide its interim report by October 15 this year and its final report by March 31 next year.



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