The Morrison government is throwing an extra $3.7 million at the construction watchdog which Labor has vowed to abolish if it wins the next federal election.
Industrial Relations Minister Kelly O’Dwyer on Wednesday announced the Australian Building and Construction Commission would receive the money over four years from 2019/20.
“The coalition government is committed to addressing the lawlessness, thuggery and intimidation in the building and construction industry,” Ms O’Dwyer said.
She said small businesses at the bottom of the supply chain were vulnerable to militant unions and poor treatment from big construction companies.
The additional funding will also allow the ABCC to employ more frontline inspectors in Queensland, where the government says work sites are being subjected to increasingly militant, law-breaking behaviour.
The move is the latest sign the coalition won’t take a backward step on industrial relations, which looms as a key battleground issue at the next federal poll.
The Construction Forestry Maritime Mining and Energy Union claims it is unfairly targeted by the ABCC, with 94 per cent of fines issued by the watchdog in the past financial year going to the union.
But the ABCC and the government blames law-breaking union-activity on the $20 million in penalties slapped on the CFMEU to date.
The ABCC was first set up by the Howard government in 2005 to restore the rule of law on construction sites, and axed by the Rudd Labor government which argued it was a star chamber that denied essential legal rights to union members.