Leading article Australia


3 December 2016

9:00 AM

3 December 2016

9:00 AM

It has taken quite a while indeed, but the Australian Building and Construction Commission Bill finally is passing into law. John Howard and Tony Abbott’s watchdog over union bosses and their goons who make Australia’s building sites places of rorts and intimidation soon will back on the beat, although the fear must remain (thanks to last minute amendments) that it will be far less effective than before.

The Turnbull government deserves muted praise for getting the ABCC and Registered Organisations Bills through the morass that is the post-double dissolution Senate. The Prime Minister may well bask in this success, but real credit goes to workplace relations minister, Michaelia Cash, and the government’s Senate enforcer, Mathias Cormann, for shepherding them through.

Senator Cash is no-one’s fool, as hard-Left union hack and Senate sexist name-caller Doug Cameron now knows. And Senator Cormann’s calm pursuit of the government’s agenda, patiently corralling support and dealing honestly with the crossbench, shows what good negotiators can do with a bad hand.

More credit goes elsewhere, to Senate crossbenchers who were prepared to put their agendas and self-interest aside – at least for a moment – and put the nation’s needs ahead of their own. So to David Leyonjhelm, Pauline Hanson and her One Nation crew, well done. Senator Hanson, in particular, is showing a political deftness and a willingness to engage that suggests she has learned much since leaving her fish and chip shop back in 1996. Instead of the one-dimensional ‘please explain’ caricature many expected, Senator Hanson is being a voice of surprising reason, open to a strong, well-argued and documented policy case without resorting to opportunistic wish lists – provided she keeps her One Nation quartet in line.

Less praiseworthy are the amendments of Senator Derryn Hinch.

If Mr Turnbull, however, tries to portray the government’s ABCC win as an unalloyed personal triumph, he is seriously mistaken. We must not forget it was the Prime Minister who made the ABCC bill the trigger for July’s DD election. If he had won convincingly, the Coalition could have used its mandate and a joint sitting of the House of Representatives and Senate to pass the bill unamended from that Mr Abbott introduced in 2014.

A joint sitting majority would have required at least 114 of a combined 226 MPs and senators. Thanks, however, to Mr Turnbull’s poorly-planned and even more poorly executed election strategy, the nebulous ‘jobs and growth’ mantra, the ill-considered and unprincipled superannuation tax grab, and the utter failure to counter Labor’s ‘Mediscare’ with a coherent health policy of his own, Mr Turnbull lost 14 MPs and three senators from Mr Abbott’s 2013 electoral triumph. Left with just 106 Coalition votes, he could not control a joint sitting for a bill that, despite being the election trigger, barely figured in the campaign.

‘Delivery’ is Mr Turnbull’s new mantra, and it goes without saying that delivering something is usually better than not delivering anything. But not always. Included in the PM’s ‘delivery’ list are the superannuation ‘reforms’, which do nothing to address our wasteful government spending and merely plunder taxes from the hard-earned savings of around half a million people on transition to retirement. This is nothing to boast of. Particularly when your party, supposedly, believes in lowering taxes and encouraging self-reliance in retirement as key conservative principles.

Thanks also to the amendments demanded in the Senate, particularly by Senator Hinch, much of the effectiveness of the ABCC won’t kick in for a couple of years – if ever – as large construction companies carry on with Enterprise Bargaining Agreements that dramatically jack up the price of construction for Australian consumers and taxpayers.

The passage of the ABCC bill therefore is a Pyhrric victory for Mr Turnbull.

But hopefully Your ABCC will one day – although not quite yet – help make Australian construction sites productive, and infrastructure plans affordable, again. No thanks, of course, to Mr Shorten and his union henchmen.

In praise of the angry white male

Full marks (again) to Senator David Leyonhjelm for exposing the rank hypocrisy of the Human Rights Commission and supreme idiocy of section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, with his complaint against the phrase ‘angry white male’. Replace two of those three words with its opposite, and of course the sky would fall in.

The post Your ABCC appeared first on The Spectator.

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