Recent comments by the Australian Building and Construction Commissioner have blown any pretence of the body’s independence out of the water, say unions.
ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence said it was disturbing that the Commissioner, a public servant appointed under Parliament’s legislation, was taking sides in the debate about the retention of coercive powers by the building watchdog.
This raised concerns about bias and a lack of independence by the ABCC, Mr Lawrence said.
“The tabling in Parliament of a letter from the Commissioner to the Deputy Prime Minister reveals that the ABCC fancies itself as a political player, rather than an independent government agency,” Mr Lawrence said.
“It has an entrenched culture of cracking down on basic workers’ rights, yet as the letter shows, has no interest in investigating unlawful activities by employers, such as the establishment of phoenix companies.
“The letter’s arguments in favour of compulsory interrogations and against safeguards for workers further confirm the Commission’s lack of independence.”
In the past week the Commissioner has also given a newspaper interview in which he stepped beyond the role of an independent public servant to that of a political advocate for draconian powers against building workers.
“We have grave concerns that the ABCC operates without any checks and balances as a quasi-secret police force in the building and construction industry,” Mr Lawrence said.
“The only people it benefits are the big property developers and construction companies.
“No other Australian workers are subjected to such extreme coercive powers which infringe on their basic rights.
“More than 900,000 people are employed in the construction industry, playing a leading role in Australia’s economic recovery.
“We will continue to campaign for equal rights for construction workers and an end to coercive powers in the industry.”