Tackling corruption is not as simple as ABCC

Tackling corruption is not as simple as ABCC

Political issues are rarely straightforward and it’s a good rule of thumb to be suspicious any time a politician tries to suggest otherwise. As much as we want black and white, yes or no scenarios, invariably there is always much more going on.This is especially true for issues raised in the heat of an election campaign such as the Australian Building and Construction Commission. It’s tempting to look at the ABCC the way Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberals do: through the prism of the “lawless”, “militant” or “anti-business” CFMEU. They’re always a convenient bogeyman useful for scaring voters into supporting new and ever more draconian industrial relations laws. The construction industry is the third-most important contributor to the Australian economy. Photo: Louie Douvis Just recite a few CFMEU horror stories and introduce a convenient union corruption-busting solution that will keep business happy and boost productivity in this cowed industry sector. Except inevitably, it’s not that simple at all.The truth is the ABCC won’t do anything about corruption – union corruption, business corruption or even government corruption. This isn’t a comment on the ABCC’s efficacy, it will simply not have any legal authority to investigate criminal acts, such as blackmail or bribery – even if an ABCC inspector was personally handed a brown paper bag full of hundred dollar notes.People quite rightly want to see an end to corruption or similar criminal behaviour wherever it may rear its ugly head. We’ve had more than enough cases from banks, politics, international finance, planning authorities and even our beloved football codes.There has also been examples from within unions, much to our collective shame. Corruption or criminal behaviour of any kind has no place within the union movement and we’re more than willing to submit ourselves to the highest form of ethical scrutiny. But that’s not what the ABCC is offering. It’s nothing more than a jacked-up industrial enforcer with a narrow remit and a political agenda.

We’ve been told the ABCC is desperately needed to help restore the economic fortunes of the construction industry, conveniently overlooking the fact that the sector is the third-most important contributor to the Australian economy, only trailing mining and financial services for impact on GDP.If you work in an office in the CBD of Melbourne or Sydney, you’d be hard-pressed to look out your window and not see at least one crane.Austrade benchmarking shows the Australian construction industry is 19 per cent more productive than our global competitors. The performance of the industry hasn’t been held back by the fact that it is unionised. The irony is that at least one contributor to this productivity is the dubious practices employed by some property developers and construction companies to artificially boost their bottom lines.The industry is notorious for the rise of sham contracting and the growing prevalence of phoenix operators who leave employees, self-employed tradespeople and small businesses rout…

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