It is one thing to blatantly oppose a piece of legislation, it is another to go on national television and deliberately mislead the Australian people.
Last night on ABC’s Lateline, Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Brendan O’Connor did just that.
Devoid of any credible arguments against the re-establishment of the ABCC, Labor have descended into farce.
Mr O’Connor justified the culture of bullying, fear and intimation within the industry as being merely “a rough and tough industry”. The victims of the CFMEU’s thuggery would disagree.
In a display of either shameless dishonesty or embarrassing ignorance, Mr O’Connor told blatant untruths about the ABCC legislation.
“…the laws are excessive. Remember it denies people's rights of representation. You could be compelled to give testimony without legal representation.”
The ABCC bill includes an explicit right to legal representation to witnesses: section 61(4) of the Bill.
Mr O’Connor also forgot to say that the current regulator, established by Labor, has exactly the same compulsory information gathering powers.
The ABCC Bill will retain the powers that already exist.
“We think it's excessive [the powers] given that the ABCC only works in the civil jurisdiction.”
These are the very same powers that other civil regulators have had for years, including the ACCC and ASIC.
The ABCC’s powers to investigate civil laws are the same powers that Labor gave the current industry regulator, Fair Work Building and Construction.
What Labor once again neglects to mention is that its own inquiry into the ABCC in 2009, by former federal court judge Murray Wilcox QC, said that because “there is still such a level of industrial unlawfulness in the building and construction industry” to get rid of compulsory powers “would not be a responsible course”.
Justice Wilcox continued: “The reality is that, without such a power, some types of contravention would be almost impossible to prove.”
The ABCC Bill keeps Labor’s powers.
Not content with misinforming viewers, Mr O’Connor was also intent on spinning statistics in relation to industrial disputation.
It is a fact that during the operation of the ABCC, there was a marked reduction in the number of days lost to industrial action in the construction industry.
When Labor abolished the ABCC, the number of days lost in this industry rose dramatically.
The Labor Party knows it cannot credibly claim that there is not a need for a stronger industry watchdog to enforce workplace laws in the building industry.
It knows it cannot deny the overwhelming evidence of bullying, intimidation and flouting of the law that characterises the industry, especially by the construction division of the CFMEU.
Mr O’Connor would be advised to spend his time reading the Bill instead of relying on the CFMEU’s talking points.
In its willingness to be the puppets of the CFMEU, Labor has not only abandoned all principle, it is now abandoning all honesty as well.