From the viewpoint of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), last Friday was a day to celebrate.
That was the day in which the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) was officially replaced and the new Fair Work Building and Construction (FWBC) agency came into operation.
The former ABCC had long been loathed by the union, who accused the regulator of being incompetent, having too much power with too little accountability, and being a brainchild of the former Howard Government. The CFMEU was quite happy to see an end to this chapter of building industry regulation.
Such sentiments are not shared, however, by business and construction industry representatives, who credit the former regulator with largely restoring order to the industry and cracking down on illegal practices. Many are concerned that the reduced powers of the FWBC relative to its predecessor may mean that is not as effective in regulating the industry.
Should that happen, many fear, some of the conduct which dogged the industry in the past may return.
Still, whilst the federal opposition has promised to reinstate the ABCC if elected to power, industry leaders have accepted that the old regulator has gone for now.
With this in mind, attention now focuses on how best to work within the new arrangements to guarantee effective regulation going forward.
“We will be closely monitoring the effectiveness of the new regulator” says James Tinslay, Chief Executive Officer of the National Electrical and Communications Authority (NECA).
“It has a vital role to play in making the building and construction industry more accountable and compliant and making sure that there is no reversion to some of the well-documented practices which blighted the industry”.
Tinslay says that even over the past year, the ABCC has taken action against a number of employers and unions in the building and construction industry for a range of illegal practices.
Expressing sentiments along the lines of those shared by other industry leaders, Tinslay says the industry needs a strong regulator and hopes that the new FWBC can ‘continue the good work already carried out by the ABCC’.
The CMFEU, meanwhile, remains adamant that the ABCC must ‘never return’, and is encouraging its members to deliver a message to that effect at the ballot box next year.