Paul Fletcher MP

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Questions without notice: Building and Construction Industry

Parliamentary Speeches Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Mr WALLACE: My question is to the Minister for Urban Infrastructure. Will the minister explain to the House the importance of restoring the rule of law to construction sites, ensuring hardworking Australians are getting value for money on major infrastructure projects. Is the minister aware of how these benefits might be threatened?


Mr FLETCHER: I thank the member for Fisher for his question. Of course, he brings enormous and relevant experience to this chamber as not only a former barrister but a former builder. He is absolutely right to ask about the rule of law on construction sites.

In 2016-17, the Commonwealth government will invest some $9 billion on transport infrastructure, and we are determined to get value for money on behalf of taxpayers. Unfortunately, the construction sector is marked by aggressive union activity. As Master Builders Queensland noted, a unionised worksite can add up to 30 per cent of the cost of construction and that is what comes from thuggery and criminality and corruption on building sites—tricks like sudden walk-offs in the middle of concrete pours that the CFMEU is so fond of. That is why it is so important to re-establish the Australian Building and Construction Commission and the rule of law on building sites.

I am asked if there is any threat to this approach. It turns out that there are some in this place who take a different view to the coalition about the role of unions on major infrastructure programs, who are happy in fact for dodgy union officials to get whatever they can out of the companies building the projects. Let me quote from the trade union royal commission, which described the approach of one union on the EastLink tunnel project in Melbourne in 2005. There was an agreement to pay $100,000 a year to that union by Thiess John Holland, disguised by false invoices.

The genesis of the agreement was a proposal by Mr X—
I say 'Mr X', Mr Speaker, in deference to your rulings.

to Stephen Sasse in late 2004 that the joint-venture provide financial support to the AWU in relation to the dedication of an organiser of the project.
The report also said that a Mr Cesar Melhem, who we can think of as Mr X's little mate, assumed primary conduct of the negotiation, and the case study gives us an approach into the principles followed by Mr X, by Cesar Melhem and by all of the gang at the AWU, the CFMEU and all of those other unions. We might call it the 'render under Cesar what is Cesar's principle' because that is really the approach. When you look at the evidence given on oath, it seems that Mr X and Cesar and all the gang took a very expansive view of what was Cesar's: Cleanevent where Cesar, Mr X and the gang picked up $25,000 a year; ACI, three instalments of $160,000; Chiquita Mushrooms. And of course Cesar felt what should be rendered under Cesar was to be appointed as a Labor member of the Victorian upper house. Who was it who was named first on his nomination form? It was of course Mr X, our old friend, the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr WALLACE: My question is to the Minister for Urban Infrastructure. Will the minister explain to the House the importance of restoring the rule of law to construction sites, ensuring hardworking Australians are getting value for money on major infrastructure projects. Is the minister aware of how these benefits might be threatened?     Mr FLETCHER: I thank the member for Fisher for his question. Of course, he brings enormous and relevant experience to this chamber as not only a former barrister but a former builder. He is absolutely right to ask about the rule of law on construction sites.   In 2016-17, the Commonwealth government will invest some $9 billion on transport infrastructure, and we are determined to get value for money on behalf of taxpayers. Unfortunately, the construction sector is marked by aggressive union activity. As Master Builders Queensland noted, a unionised worksite can add up to 30 per cent of the cost of construction and that is what comes from thuggery and criminality and corruption on building sites—tricks like sudden walk-offs in the middle of concrete pours that the CFMEU is so fond of. That is why it is so important to re-establish the Australian Building and Construction Commission and the rule of law on building sites.   I am asked if there is any threat to this approach. It turns out that there are some in this place who take a different view to the coalition about the role of unions on major infrastructure programs, who are happy in fact for dodgy union officials to get whatever they can out of the companies building the projects. Let me quote from the trade union royal commission, which described the approach of one union on the EastLink tunnel project in Melbourne in 2005. There was an agreement to pay $100,000 a year to that union by Thiess John Holland, disguised by false invoices.   The genesis of the agreement was a proposal by Mr X— I say 'Mr X', Mr Speaker, in deference to your rulings.   to Stephen Sasse in late 2004 that the joint-venture provide financial support to the AWU in relation to the dedication of an organiser of the project. The report also said that a Mr Cesar Melhem, who we can think of as Mr X's little mate, assumed primary conduct of the negotiation, and the case study gives us an approach into the principles followed by Mr X, by Cesar Melhem and by all of the gang at the AWU, the CFMEU and all of those other unions. We might call it the 'render under Cesar what is Cesar's principle' because that is really the approach. When you look at the evidence given on oath, it seems that Mr X and Cesar and all the gang took a very expansive view of what was Cesar's: Cleanevent where Cesar, Mr X and the gang picked up $25,000 a year; ACI, three instalments of $160,000; Chiquita Mushrooms. And of course Cesar felt what should be rendered under Cesar was to be appointed as a Labor member of the Victorian upper house. Who was it who was named first on his nomination form? It was of course Mr X, our old friend, the Leader of the Opposition.

Authorised by Paul Fletcher MP, Level 2, 280 Pacific Highway Lindfield NSW 2070.

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