Coast MP blasts government for failing construction industry

Sunshine Coast MP Andrew Wallace has slammed the Labor Government’s move to abolish the Australian Building and Construction Commission and fears the economic impact the hurried and uninformed decision will have.

 The Federal Member for Fisher said the new Government will throw the construction industry into chaos at a time of labour shortages and enormous demands upon an already stressed industry.

 “Without a tough cop on the beat, Labor will once again open the door to chaos, lawlessness and abuse of power,” Mr Wallace said.

 “We’ll go back to the bad old days where unions like the CFMEU drive up the price of construction and every Australian will pay for it. That’s money taken out of budgets for schools, roads, hospitals and other critical public infrastructure.

 “There was no consultation with industry from Labor. There was no consideration of workers and the small and family businesses that make up the backbone of our economy have been overlooked. No transition, no process, no plan from Labor.”

The building and construction industry is Australia’s fifth largest industry and contributes around 9% in terms of GDP. It employs 1.15 million Australians and around 400,000 small and family businesses.

In April, Masters Builders Association of Australia commissioned Ernst and Young to undertake an economic analysis to assess the cost impacts from abolishing the ABCC.

The report stated, “output in the construction industry could fall by around $35.4 billion by 2030 as higher construction costs makes fewer projects possible, and capital is reallocated to other economic activities.”

Mr Wallace, who remains a registered builder and was a construction law barrister for 16 years prior to entering Parliament in July 2016, used his maiden speech to call out the dire status of the construction industry brought on by the Labor Gillard Government’s undoing of the ABCC in 2012.

“The building and construction industry is racked with corruption and self-interest … we must clean up this industry for the sake of our country and the country’s economy,” Mr Wallace said in his first parliamentary speech in 2016.

Alongside his Coalition colleagues, Mr Wallace fought for the ABCC to be re-established in December 2016.

The ABCC, which is tasked to uphold the law and change behaviour to make the building and construction industry fair, efficient and productive, has had a 91% success rate in its prosecutions which has seen around $16 million in penalties and fines.

In the 2021-22 financial year, the ABCC assisted subcontractors to recover over $5.1 million in delayed or unpaid progress claims.

“While we continue to make progress, unions continue to interfere, intimidate and impose unlawful regimes on workplaces across some states in Australia,” Mr Wallace said.

“When I began as a chippy in Victoria, the state’s building and construction sector was marked by the most despicable union thuggery, corruption and workplace violence and I too was exposed to their standover tactics.

“While the economy is faced with the toughest global conditions in almost a century, and Australian families and their businesses battle on, we can’t allow unions like the CFMEU use workers’ funds to lie, bully and intimidate.”

In the Fisher electorate 9632 people are employed in the construction industry. The construction share of jobs for the electorate (at 15.2%) represented by Mr Wallace ranks second highest in the nation.

“I will continue to back small businesses, fight for construction industry workers and hold this Government to account,” Mr Wallace said.