(Image via www.abc.net.au)

Bob the Builder is anything but an independent senator and is in no position to be leading the cross bench to consensus on the ABCC, says David Tyler.

FAMILY FIRST Senator Bob Day bobs up all over the media these days. He makes himself endlessly available to tell anyone who'll listen that corruption is rife in the construction industry. Corruption! He repeats his mantra with righteous fervour. No matter the government has just wasted $80 million on a two-year Royal Commission into Union Corruption. He has a much better plan.

Bob wants us to return to 2003; restore Howard’s Australian Building and Construction Commission. No matter that we already have a Fair Work Building and Construction Commission effectively on the job. No matter that Day’s own construction empire means he can hardly claim to be a disinterested bystander.

An anti-union urger, Day is away with the pixies. He denies climate change is real; he proposes that young workers "put themselves out of the system," trading away their entitlements, holiday and sick leave just to get a job. But the government can't get enough of him.

 Bob Day calls for removal of the minimum wage for the young in his Maiden Speech Sept 2014.

Day is wondrously keen to help the PM mislead voters that the ABCC is mission critical; urgent, despite it being a bill introduced into parliament in November 2013 amidst calls of a crime wave.

Senator Eric Abetz and Andrew Nicolic claimed “endemic industrial lawlessness” ruled the construction industry. Abetz failed to make a case for the ABCC twice. His PM switched tack to productivity; waved a shonky report by Independent Economics (formerly known as Econtech) commissioned by the Master Builders Association and which was discredited by the Productivity Commission. But Bob keeps bobbing along with his corruption catch cry.

 

Even the Master Builders are clear about the ABCC’s jurisdiction, however. Wilhelm Harnisch, CEO of Master Builders Australia tells the ABC’s 774

“people who are saying this is about dealing with criminality and corruption are missing the point …. criminality and fraud are totally separate from (the ABCC).”

Bob Day and Michaelia Cash both ignore the hint.

The ABCC will be a "tough new cop on the block" or "a watchdog," says Michaelia Cash, when Blind Freddy can see it's an excuse for an early election via double dissolution for a Turnbull government plummeting in popularity as voters lose patience with its division, indecision and policy vacuum. And voters have memories of the fiasco of the ABCC first time around.

 

Introduced in October 2005 by the Howard government, after the fruitless Cole Royal Commission into the Building and Construction Industry, the ABCC saw workplaces become more dangerous and productivity decline. It was a perfect storm of bad industrial relations and bad law. Some of its powers were used illegally.

Unions were not allowed meeting time to discuss health and safety. Accidental deaths on construction sites rose. Workers were harassed, subject to secret interrogations. They lost their common law right to remain silent. Reversed was the onus of proof. Officials could enter premises without a warrant; demanding names and addresses. You could go to jail if you didn't cooperate.

Day avoids these sobering facts. Like Tony Abbott, whose union baiting Day is channelling, the senator is a mine of misinformation and deception. He won't let the truth get in the way of his crusade against organised labour.

For Day, corruption is an established fact rather than an unproven, prejudicial allegation, an unconscionable slur, which Tony Abbott shrewdly enshrined in the title of Dyson Heydon's Royal Commission. Despite any evidence, he repeats “corruption” endlessly like any propagandist.    

As for the ABCC,'s STASI like powers, Day is as silent on its extraordinary powers, as he is on its limitations to civil and not criminal law. Yet he is vocal about its advocacy even suggesting that an ABCC type outfit could be part of everybody's workplace. 

Day tells the ABC:

“Given the government has established an anti-corruption measure in the ABCC to (the construction) sector then I can’t see any reason why … if it were to emerge that there were corruption that my colleagues identified in other sectors why wouldn’t they establish a similar anti-corruption measure for those sectors."

Day puts himself forward as a spokesman, a service which other cross bench senators forcefully decline. Despite this, Malcolm Turnbull says Day is "showing real leadership" in acting as a broker. For the ABC and other mainstream media, this makes Day an important source, a de facto leader of the independent senators when in fact he is more of a Liberal Party stooge, a means for the LNP to "outsource its negotiations with the senate," as Brendan O'Connor puts it.

Michaelia Cash threatens that the government will only negotiate with the crossbench on the Australian Building and Construction Commission bill as a bloc of at least six, and will not accept any amendments that will "compromise the integrity" of the ABCC, as if she were in a position to dictate terms. Or that ABCC and integrity are even words that you can put together.

Day is now Malcolm Turnbull's pet senator; his preferred point of contact and even lead negotiator with the cross bench. But just who is this man?

A failed Liberal candidate in 2007, Day resigned from the party to contest the senate in 2013. Owner and director of an $80 million construction empire, he heads Homestead Homes and Home Australia, which owns large companies in Western Australia, Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales. You wonder how Bob the builder fits in any political work at all. Then there's all the breathless media work.

Day bobs up regularly all over Auntie and other tame media outlets claiming that the construction industry is infested with criminality. It's defamatory, it's damaging and it's wrong.

Day's sweeping assertions are not only calculated to smear those who work in the construction industry, they use loopy logic.  "What goes on" he says, on some building sites is hurting people and driving up the price of homes." No chance that speculative investment or the work of property developers like himself drives up the price of homes. No sense that the ABCC really hurt people last time around.

“What goes on” in, in effect, is a free ride for Bob Day (Inc.) in the media. No-one asks Bob the builder to provide evidence of criminality. Or of improved productivity. No-one asks about conflict of interest. He’s a beacon of integrity, of course, despite being the only cross-bencher favoured with the PM’s calls or his pushing of the Abbott/Turnbull agenda.  

Talking to an indulgent Greg Jennett on ABC radio, Day claims that the ABCC

" … should never have been abolished. It was like taking customs officers out of airports and criminal activity skyrocketed. We need to bring them back."

Except that it didn't, Bob. Except that it is a totally false analogy. Except that the ABCC reduced productivity and increased workplace accidents and fatalities.

 

Bob the builder keeps on bobbing up like a turd in the surf at Bondi. A close ally of the Prime Minister, a seasoned, self-interested union basher his fear-mongering and smearing of the construction industry, mean he is anything but an independent senator. He is in no position to be making wild accusations of corruption. Or to lead the cross-bench to consensus on the issue.

You can follow David Tyler on Twitter @urbanwronski.

Creative Commons Licence
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License

Monthly Donation

$

Single Donation

$

Support independent journalism. Subscribe to IA for just $5.

 

Share this article:   

Join the conversation Comments Policy

comments powered by Disqus