The $60 million Cole royal commission, which consisted of 23 volumes, referred 31 individuals for prosecution. But it resulted in how many prosecutions and how many convictions? There was not one single criminal prosecution, let alone any finding of guilt. Brendan O’Connor
Family First senator Bob Day bobs up all over the media these days. He makes himself endlessly available to tell anyone who’ll listen that corruption is rife in the construction industry. Corruption! He repeats his mantra with righteous fervour. No matter that tax-payers have just spent $80 million on a two year Royal Commission into Union Corruption with very few prosecutions coming out of its witch-hunt. He has a much better plan!
We must all go back a decade or so to the Howard era and restore the Australian Building and Construction Commission. No matter that we already have a Fair Work Building Commission effectively on the job. No matter that Day as head of his own highly profitable building and construction empire can hardly claim to be a disinterested bystander. He’s an urger with an anti-union agenda who has proposed that young workers “put themselves out of the system,” trading away their entitlements, holiday and sick leave just to get a job. But the government can’t get enough of him.
PM Turnbull and Workplace Minister Michaelia Cash and others are happy to gee Day up in their mission to wilfully mislead voters and the Governor General, that an ABCC is urgently required for the Turnbull government to continue its policy programme when the bill was first introduced in November 2013. They misrepresent its nature.
The ABCC will be a “tough new cop on the block” or “a watchdog,” when Blind Freddy can see it’s an excuse for an early election via double dissolution for a Turnbull government plummeting in popularity as voters lose patience with its division, indecision and policy vacuum. And voters have memories of the fiasco of the ABCC first time around.
Introduced in 2003 by the Howard government, after the Cole Royal Commission into the Building and Construction Industry and in operation until repealed by the Gillard government in February 2012, the ABCC made workplaces more dangerous and workers and decreased productivity. It was a perfect storm of bad industrial relations and bad law.
Unions were not allowed meeting time to discuss health and safety. Deaths on construction sites resulted. Workers were harassed, subject to secret interrogations. They lost their common law right to remain silent. Reversed was the onus of proof. Officials could enter premises without a warrant; demanding names and addresses. You could go to jail if you didn’t cooperate.
Bob Day doesn’t tell us these less attractive facts. Like Tony Abbott, whose union baiting Day is channelling, the senator is a mine of misinformation and deception. He won’t let the truth get in the way of his crusade against organised labour.
For Day, corruption is an established fact rather than an unproven, prejudicial allegation, an unconscionable slur which Tony Abbott shrewdly enshrined in the title of Dyson Heydon’s Royal Commission. Corruption, moreover, is a word which needs to be repeated as often as possible.
As for the ABCC,’s STASI like powers, Day is as silent on its extraordinary powers, as he is on its limitations to civil and not criminal law. Yet he is vocal about its advocacy even suggesting that an ABCC type outfit could be part of everybody’s workplace.
“Given the government has established an anti-corruption measure in the ABCC to (the construction) sector then I can’t see any reason why … if it were to emerge that there were corruption that my colleagues identified in other sectors why wouldn’t they establish a similar anti-corruption measure for those sectors,” he tells the ABC.
Day puts himself forward as a spokesman, a service which other cross bench senators forcefully decline. Despite this, Malcolm Turnbull says Day is “showing real leadership” in acting as a broker. For the ABC and other mainstream media, this makes Day an important source, a de facto leader of the independent senators when in fact he is more of a Liberal Party stooge, a means for the LNP to “outsource its negotiations with the senate,” as Brendan O’Connor puts it.
Michaelia Cash threatens that the government will only negotiate with the crossbench on the Australian Building and Construction Commission bill as a bloc of at least six, and will not accept any amendments that will “compromise the integrity” of the ABCC, as if she were in a position to dictate terms. Or that ABCC and integrity are even words that you can put together.
Day is now Malcolm Turnbull’s pet senator; his preferred point of contact and even lead negotiator with the cross bench. But just who is this man?
A former Liberal candidate in 2007, Day resigned from the Liberal Party to contest the senate in 2013. Owner and director of a large and prosperous construction empire, he is head honcho of Homestead Homes and Home Australia, which owns large building companies in Western Australia, Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales. You wonder how Bob the builder fits in any political work at all. Then there’s all the breathless media work.
Day bobs up regularly all over Auntie and other tame media outlets assuring anyone who will listen that the construction industry is run by a bunch of crooks. It’s defamatory, it’s damaging and it’s wrong.
Day’s sweeping assertions are not only calculated to smear those who work in the construction industry, they use loopy logic. “What goes on” he says, on some building sites is hurting people and driving up the price of homes”. No chance that speculative investment and the work of property developers like himself drives up the price of homes.
Bob doesn’t have to provide real evidence. He just knows, because, in real life, he is in the construction industry. Not that he’s corrupt, of course, despite his cosy chats with the PM or the fact that he is pushing the Abbott/Turnbull agenda as hard as he can.
Bob can’t even point to the PM’s shonky Independent Economics report. It was commissioned by the Master Builders Association and is discredited by the Productivity Commission. And even the Master Builders know that you’re barking up the wrong tree.
Wilhelm Harnisch, CEO of Master Builders Australia tells the ABC “those people who are saying this is about dealing with criminality and corruption are missing the point about the ABCC bills. The matter of criminality and fraud are totally separate from the Australian Building and Construction Commission.”
Talking to ABC’s Greg Jennett, who is typically indulgent, Day explains that the ABCC
“ … should never have been abolished. It was like taking customs officers out of airports and criminal activity skyrocketed. We need to bring them back.”
Except that it didn’t, Bob. Except that it is a totally false analogy. Except that the ABCC reduced productivity and increased workplace accidents and fatalities.
But Bob the builder keeps on bobbing up like a turd in the surf at Bondi. No-one calls him for being a Liberal stooge; a seasoned, self-interested union basher whose toxic scare campaign and smearing of the construction sector is the last thing any of us need let alone an industry interested in improving its productivity.