Labor winding back powers of building watchdog to ‘bare minimum’

“The threshold for when they apply and when they don’t isn’t based on a safety concern,” he said.

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“It’s based on, one, whether you’re in construction, and two, a formula of the extent of Commonwealth contribution relative to the value of the project, as though somehow that’s a safety principle.

“These sorts of rules, to make sure that people are fit and ready for work, are just as important on a mining site as they are on a construction site.”

The nation’s peak workers’ union, the ACTU, said Burke’s decision means “anti-worker” elements of the building code, put in place by the previous Coalition government in 2016, will finally be removed.

“The code was one of the ideological projects of the previous government, who spent nearly a decade attacking unions and suppressing wages,” ACTU Secretary Sally McManus said on Sunday.

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“It stopped progress on apprenticeships and skills in the construction industry and did nothing to address safety or wage theft.”

Labor will defund the ABCC, an oversight body it sees as highly politicised for its persistent pursuit of the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union. It has pledged to abolish the body, however, as a statutory authority, its removal has to be legislated.

Innes Willox, chief executive of employer association Ai Group said stripping the ABCC of its powers “is of great concern to businesses”.

“It is a backwards step for the fight against bullying and intimidation and will add costs and delays to vital community infrastructure such as roads, hospitals and schools,”

“The building code is playing a vital role in ensuring that all participants in the construction industry comply with industrial laws and maintain high standards of work health and safety,” he said.

AAP with staff writers

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