The Australian Building and Construction Commission is an independent authority under the Australian Federal Government which is intended to: "uphold the law and change behaviour to make the building and construction industry fair, efficient and productive." In July 2022, Workplace Relations Minister, Tony Burke, announced that the ABCC's power will be pulled back to the "bare legal minimum," with the Albanese Government intending to eventually dismantle the authority entirely.
The ABCC was previously known as the Office of the Australian Building and Construction Commissioner from 2005 to 2012. This was replaced by the Fair Work Building and Construction (FWBC) from 2012 and 2016. Both the Abbott and Turnbull Coalition Governments attempted to reinstate the ABCC in 2015 and March of 2016, but both legislation submissions failed to pass both houses of parliament. In December of 2016, then-Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, called a double dissolution. After being re-elected, the Turnbull Coalition Government successfully passed legislation to reinstate the ABCC.
Albanese Government Changes
In announcing the upcoming changes to the ABCC's, Mr. Burke commented on the performance of the authority and claimed that commission’s “ridiculous rules” under the building code were wasting taxpayer money:
“A lot of what it’s been doing can appropriately be done by another regulator...We will no longer be spending taxpayers’ money determining what sticker someone’s allowed to put on their helmet, whether or not a safety sign has to be pulled down because it’s got a union logo in the bottom corner, or what flag might be flying at a building site...Those sorts of issues should never have been something for an official government regulator to be wasting taxpayers’ money on, (and) as of Tuesday those offences are gone altogether.”
According to Alan Austin, prior to 2005, construction deaths were "high and accepted as inevitable." Towards 2008, the fatality rate had successfully dropped to below 60 per one hundred million chain volume measures (CVM) of construction activity. Under the Labor Government in 2007, as a result of new regulations and greater safety education, the rate fellow further to below 50 in 2008, below 40 in 2011 and to an historic low of 15.7 by 2013.
As of the time of writing, although the federal government is currently working to close the commission entirely, new court actions are still taking place, with 41 cases currently before the courts. 39 of these are against unions.