February 09, 2017

The Turnbull Government’s reprehensible deal with the cross-bench to amend the Australian Building and Construction Commission, which was established less than 3 months ago, will not only create chaos in the building industry but will result in significant reductions to apprentice numbers.

The Code for the Tendering and Performance of Building Work 2016 prohibits employers and unions from agreeing to guarantee the employment of apprentices on Commonwealth funded construction projects. 

When the Bill to establish the ABCC passed the Parliament last year it did so on with a provision that ensured it did not take effect until 29 November 2018. 

Irresponsibly, Senators Hinch, Xenophon, Leyonhjelm and Pauline Hanson’s One Nation have done a deal to change the implementation date so the Code comes into effect on 1 September, 2017.

This will leave building companies and unions less than seven months to try and renegotiate previously agreed lawfully binding enterprise agreements.

The changes will be detrimental to the building trade apprentices system and the amendments to advance the date it takes effect means there will be less apprentices. 

The Coalition’s cuts of $2.5 billion from skills and apprenticeships have led to rapidly declining apprentice numbers, particularly in trades training. In the last 12 months alone trade apprentice commencements have dropped 10.5 per cent.

In contrast, last week Labor announced policies that will boost trade apprentice numbers and ensure that Commonwealth-funded projects are giving Australians the skills they need to prosper.

Labor Leader Bill Shorten promised that at least one in ten jobs on Commonwealth funded major projects would go to trade apprentices as a key plank of a plan to create Australian jobs and boost skills.

In working with the Turnbull Government to bring forward their plans that cut apprentice numbers, One Nation and Senators Hinch, Xenophon and Leyonhjelm have shown themselves to be all talk and no action on protecting and promoting Australian jobs.

The new building Code will do nothing to increase the numbers of skilled local workers and instead will exacerbate the decline in Australian skills and apprenticeship training.