MORRISON GOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO THE AUSTRALIAN CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY FORUM

A fair and balanced workplace relations system is the foundation of a strong economy and higher living standards for all Australians. We know that the key to better workplaces lies in workplace relations policies that support job creation, business growth and the rule of law.

 

The Morrison Government through re-calibrating workplace laws to support these areas has created over 1.2 million more jobs, and reduced the number of days lost to industrial action by 40 per cent.

Now is not the time to change direction. We need to stay the course to create 1.25 million more jobs over the next five years, including 250,000 jobs for young Australians, support more businesses to start and grow, and to uphold the rule of law in workplaces.

The Morrison Government has restored the rule of law to workplaces through reforms that encourage cooperation and workplace-level negotiation to ensure both workers and employers can build and benefit from a stronger economy.

There is more work to do to ensure this record of job creation and more cooperative workplaces continue. Now is not the time to turn the clock back to the 1970s and put Australia on strike.

The achievements of the Morrison Government to ensure productive and fair workplace relations include:

  • re-establishing the Australian Building and Construction Commission, to ensure small contractors and subbies can access our third largest industry without fear of intimidation, bullying and unaffordable cost imposts;
  • abolishing the never-ending award review process that created uncertainty while sapping a disproportionate amount of time and money from small business;
  • ensuring union bosses are held to the same standards as company directors by establishing the Registered Organisations Commission; and
  • ending the ‘strike first, talk later’ approach to industrial relations, instead requiring that protected industrial action can only be taken once negotiations on an enterprise agreement have begun.

Bill Shorten’s Labor wants to scrap the ABCC and the ROC, legalise industry-wide strikes for the first time ever, allow unions to veto free trade agreements and allow politicians to set minimum pay rates. They want to give union bosses the upper hand in workplace negotiations by banning employers from terminating expired enterprise agreements and forcing employers to compulsory arbitration.

Their policies would stifle business, risk jobs and cause disruption across Australia. When it comes to industrial relations, the choice could not be clearer.

Commitment by state and federal governments to implement the recommendations of the Shergold-Weir Report by February 2021.

On 13 March 2019, the Building Ministers’ Forum (BMF) published a joint implementation plan responding to the recommendations of the Building Confidence report by Peter Shergold and Bronwyn Weir.

The plan sets out reforms both planned and underway in each jurisdiction. States and territories have agreed that wherever possible jurisdictions will adopt reforms consistent with those in place or proposed in other jurisdictions.

While the BMF has given in-principle agreement to all recommendations in the report, the immediate focus will be on reforms to the integrity and transparency of building certification processes. The BMF will initially focus efforts on exploring a consistent approach to the registration and training of practitioners and the responsibilities of design practitioners.

Support for the Building Information Modelling Strategy of Australasian BIM Advisory Board.

Along with re-establishing the ABCC, the Coalition introduced a new function for the Federal Safety Commissioner (FSC) to audit compliance with National Construction Code (NCC) performance requirements in relation to building materials.

Under the changes, compliance with the NCC is now a condition of accreditation by the FSC. Accredited companies therefore face losing access to Commonwealth funded building work if they fail to comply with performance specifications of building materials under the NCC.

The Australian Building & Construction Commission to be retained.

Getting paid on time for work done is fundamental to all businesses, including the many subcontractors who make up our construction industry. The Morrison Government is committed to improving protections for individuals and small businesses who subcontract in the building and construction industry, and to achieving greater consistency in security of payment laws across Australia.

We have re-established the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) which enforces the security of payment requirements in the Code for the Tendering and Performance of Building Work 2016. Under the code, contractors that have tendered for Commonwealth-funded building work must adhere to state and territory security of payment laws.

They must pay their subcontractors on time and not unreasonably withhold payment, otherwise they risk being excluded from Commonwealth funded building work for up to twelve months. This important work would be undone if Labor were to be elected, given its plans to abolish the ABCC and the Building Code.

The implementation of an effective regime to be established to minimise the use of non- conforming building products.

The Commonwealth does not have constitutional power to regulate buildings.

The Morrison Government is committed to working with state and territory counterparts to restore public confidence in Australia’s built environment.

The National Construction Code has always restricted the use of combustible cladding on high-rise buildings, and prior to fire incidents in recent years, the Commonwealth, states and territories had no reason to believe that building practitioners were not complying with the NCC.

The inappropriate use of cladding is an issue of non-compliance with the NCC and state and territory building regulations. Enforcement of these rules is the responsibility of state and territory governments.

Building Ministers’ Forum (BMF) actions on cladding

The prevention of the inappropriate use of aluminium composite panels (ACPs) has been a key area of focus for the BMF.

The BMF expedited the implementation of a comprehensive package of measures by the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB), to prevent non-compliant use of wall cladding on high- rise buildings.

The out-of-cycle amendments to the NCC include:

  • a more rigorous testing standard for determining the fire safety of external wall assemblies (AS 5113:2016);
  • introduction of a new Verification Method to demonstrate compliance with the existing fire safety Performance Requirements;
  • increased stringency for the sprinkler protection of balconies on residential buildings; and
  • stricter compliance documentation requirements in the NCC’s evidence of suitability provisions.

State Ministers agreed in October 2017 to use their powers to prohibit the inappropriate use of these products on buildings of more than three storeys.

At their February 2019 meeting Ministers agreed to expand this to a total ban in new construction subject to an impact assessment.

A number of other significant reforms continue to be progressed by the BMF, including:

  • development of a Technical Standard for permanent labelling of aluminium composite cladding products (etched or printed), ahead of development of an Australian Standard, to prevent unsuitable product substitution
  • the Building Regulators’ Forum working with fire authorities on the best method of making information available to assist them to respond to buildings with ACPs, and
  • overseeing the cladding audits and reviews being undertaken across

The BMF is also considering ways to address the cost of cladding rectification works, and has given in-principle support that building practitioners should owe a duty of care to building owners (and subsequent building owners) for residential construction work and certain commercial construction or small business.

Further, I received the following response from Pauline Hanson’s parliamentary advisor:

Thank you for your letter of 4 April and the enclosed brochure outlining ACIF’s policy priorities.  Senator Hanson has asked me to respond on her behalf that she is supportive of these and certainly that the Australian Building and Construction Commission be retained.  Together with other One Nation Senators she will do what she can to ensure this happens.