Master Builders Australia says more than 400,000 small builders and traders are suffering ‘a severe cost and cash flow crisis’ and is urging key parties to come up with an economic plan for the struggling construction industry.
“We know from our survey of 40 fringe seats across the country that builders and traders want an economic recovery plan and are strongly opposed to policies that will put the economic recovery at risk,” the director said. General Manager of Master Builders Australia, Denita Wawn.
“For them, it’s not about pay raises because they don’t get paid. The money they can make from their business depends entirely on how well their business is doing.
“That’s why they want an economic recovery plan first and foremost.”
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Among the contested policies, Wawn names the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) – Wawn is calling on Labor to rethink a plan to abolish the construction watchdog.
“The campaign is also calling on major parties to abandon policies that will put economic recovery at risk, such as Labor’s plan to abolish construction watchdog the ABCC,” she says.
“We know from our polls of shopkeepers and weak voters in marginal seats that they view militant construction unions and rogue public servants as a threat to economic recovery, which is why they want Labor keeps the watchdog of the construction industry.”
To reject the watchdog would be ‘committing economic self-harm’, she continues, saying ‘Labour’s policy will leave over 400,000 mum and dad’s small builders and shopkeepers exposed to union thugs and bullies’.
‘If Labor is serious about being pro-business then it cannot abolish the watchdog that makes sure everyone in the construction industry follows the rules.’
Master Builders Australia commissioned an analysis of 40 marginal seats by Laidlaw Campaigns & Counsel which showed public support for the watchdog.
But Labor leader Anthony Albanese said that since its reinstatement in 2016 under a Liberal-National government, the ABCC “has relentlessly pursued union officials for minor breaches while doing little to stamp out wage theft or forgery. contracts in the construction industry or to ensure the safety of construction sites and the dead”.
He continues that building and construction workers “should have the same rights as other workers”, with a key part of his industrial relations changes to require companies to hire contract workers permanently after two years and to granting annual leave to casual workers.
Albanese said the policies aimed to help nearly a third of workers in jobs with variable hours and pay, with “little or no protections”.
The ABCC has long been accused of lacking a sensitive center and wielding draconian secret police powers.
Under the Howard government’s ABCC, there was no right to silence – the commission had national security-like powers to prevent a witness from revealing that they had been interviewed by the commission.
But Industrial Relations Minister Michaelia Cash claimed Albanese was placing the ABCC under the control of the powerful Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU).
Just last week, the ABCC launched historic legal action against the CFMEU, pursuing penalties for alleged death threats made against two workers who tried to breach a union picket in Western Australia.
In the statement, suspected ABCC union site steward Jason Gill issued death threats in August last year after 30 picketers gathered outside Kwinana Bulk Pier at Freemantle Harbour.
The ABCC alleges that Gill stood near a worker who was heckling him and told him “you will end up dying if you continue like this”.
Construction is the country’s fourth-largest direct employer, with 1.16 million Australians working in the industry in February, according to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Albanese is currently in Queensland, hoping to win back seats in the blue-collar heartland, crucial for an election victory in May – in the last election Labor won just six of Queensland’s 30 federal seats .
“We need to rediscover the spirit of consensus that former Labor Prime Minister Bob Hawke used to bring governments, unions, business and civil society together around their common goals of growth and job creation,” he said. Albanese said earlier this month.