Event: Denita Wawn interview with Danica De Giorgio, Sky News AM Agenda
Date: Tuesday 8 November 2022, 11.25am AEDT
Speakers: Danica De Giorgio, host Sky News AM Agenda, Denita Wawn, CEO Master Builders Australia
Topics: industrial relations
Danica De Giorgio, host Sky News AM Agenda: Joining me now live is Denita Wawn, Master Builders Australia CEO. Denita, thank you for joining us. What part of these reforms are you most concerned about?
Denita Wawn, CEO Master Builders Australia: Well, I think the big issues at the moment related to multi-employer bargaining and the accompanying right to industry-wide strikes, the excessive intervention by the Commission into the bargaining arena and, of course for us, the abolition of the ABCC. But this is a very extensive piece of legislation. It’s 239 pages long. The government continues to introduce amendments without us seeing the detail. And so, as a consequence, concerns are being raised about both process but also content.
Danica: The government has committed to establishing a National Construction Industry Forum and to abolish the Australian Building and Construction Commission. Where do you sit with that? Have you been told how this forum would function?
Denita: No, no details whatsoever. This was flagged at the Jobs and Skills Summit. At the time we assumed it was going to be more of a roundtable discussion. The first we heard about it being legislated as an advisory committee was today and we’ve seen no details. We are assuming it will not be a like-for-like to the ABCC. The ABCC was a regulator with extensive powers to ensure that they investigated all unlawful industrial action on building sites of which unfortunately there are many and then prosecute accordingly. And it has been made very clear by the government that they want to abolish that type of process. We argue that we still need it and it is unfortunate that if we have a discussion on cultural change in the industry, which we do need, it’s not going to incorporate that stick approach as well as the carrot.
Danica: Independent Jacqui Lambie has nominated that proposed abolition of the Commission as a sticking point for her. She maintains that she opposes this outright. Does that help allay any concerns you have that there could be further concessions to come?
Denita: Well certainly we thank Senator Lambie and her colleague Tammy Tyrrell. Their concerns around the removal of the ABCC and likewise Senator Pocock. We continue to say that the ABCC should not be abolished, that there is significant evidence to show that it needs to be retained or something like the ABCC put in its place. So, at this stage, we are assuming that the forum that’s been announced will not be ABCC-like. We continue to lobby the crossbenchers to stay firm on ensuring that the building and construction industry can play its role in economic growth. Every one dollar spent in our industry is three dollars back to the economy. The biggest of any industry around the country. And we know from our research that if you remove the ABCC then you see an increase to costs involved in the industry by up to $50 billion between now and the end of the decade.
Danica: Big business has hinted that it will start a multi-million dollar campaign against these reforms. Will Master Builders follow suit?
Denita: Well Master Builders is renowned for campaigning in all sorts of different ways. We certainly believe that it’s a grassroots component. That our members are extraordinarily concerned as we talk to them around the country about this IR legislation and it’s only just coming the fruition about the extent of the major, major changes that are being introduced through this bill. So, our focus will be that we are making our members aware and encouraging them to get involved and talk to their local MP. It is critical that the public are given enough time to consider this bill and its implications, not only on them as individuals but the economy at large. And they simply haven’t had that time. It has been rushed, it’s been a highly unusual process, and certainly something I have not seen in my 30 years working as an advocate.
Danica: But you’re open then to campaigning against these reforms?
Denita: If we have to, we will. But at the moment it is very early stages. The legislation was only just introduced a few weeks ago. We’re still going through it. There are still more amendments coming and there are discussions including our senate inquiry hearing on Friday. We’re keeping all options open as to our advocacy but needless to be assured that we will represent our members fully as we always do in standing by their needs to be the best building industry we can be and be profitable and sustainable. We argue that these changes that are being proposed simply will be contrary to productivity increases that we know we badly need in this country as we go ahead towards difficult economic times.
Danica: Denita Wawn we have to leave it there. Thank you very much for joining us.
Denita: Pleasure, thank you.
National Director, Media & Public Affairs
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