Peter Dutton accuses Anthony Albanese of ‘sanctioning’ assaults and harassment of female construction workers in an extraordinary attack on his plan to abolish building watchdog
- Mr Albanese was grilled about his plan to dismantle the construction watchdog
- Mr Dutton claimed plan would increase assaults and harassment of women
- Also accused Labor of abolishing ABCC in exchange for huge union donations
- Mr Dutton earlier shouted a question asking if he met with ‘rapist’ union thugs
Peter Dutton has accused Anthony Albanese of condoning the harassment and assault of women on building sites.
The opposition leader made the remarkable claim as he railed against the government’s plan’s to abolish the building industry watchdog.
Labor has already defunded the Australian Building and Construction Commission and will legislate to dismantle it in coming days.
The Coalition relentlessly attacked Mr Albanese on the issue in question time on Wednesday, asking five questions about the ABCC and ‘union rapist thugs’.
Mr Dutton followed up with a 15-minute spray in which he claimed abolishing the ABCC would raise inflation and building costs, and increase assaults.
Peter Dutton has accused Anthony Albanese of condoning the harassment and assault of women on building sites by planning to abolish the building watchdog
‘So when you see the next report from a building site of a female stop and go member who’s just there to do her job being abused by some bikie or some member of the CFMEU, know that it is sanctioned by this prime minister,’ he said.
‘Know that the next act of assault of assault or unlawful conduct on a building site that results in a worker being injured, is the result of this PM.’
Mr Dutton on several occasions likened Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union officials to thugs who regularly committed crimes and had bikie friends.
However, Employment Minister Tony Burke pointed out in reply that investigating such matters was outside the ABCC’s jurisdiction.
‘There’s one problem [with their argument], you do know the ABCC isn’t allowed to deal with criminal behaviour? It’s a starting point for the debate…’ he said.
‘Criminal behaviour should be dealt with by the police. To claim abolishing the ABCC would somehow have an impact on that is absurd.’
Mr Dutton followed up question time with a 15-minute spray in which he claimed abolishing the ABCC would raise inflation and building costs, and increase assaults
Mr Dutton was later backed up by his deputy Sussan Ley, who asked ‘who is protecting the women?’
She referenced an ABCC prosecution where a union official allegedly pushed and shoved a female health and safety manager.
‘And when she accused him of putting words in her mouth, he responded “I would never put anything in your mouth, you’re disgusting”,’ Ms Ley said.
‘Does the government seriously believe the prosecution of this vile behaviour is a waste of taxpayers’ money?’
Mr Dutton also tried to portray the decision to abolish the watchdog as quid pro quo with the CFMEU for $5 million in donations to Labor in the past three years.
‘What did they ask for the $5 million they gave to the ALP? They asked for a policy change… and that is what this prime minister has delivered,’ he said.
‘They are dictating every move of this government… The union movement completely owns and operates this Labor Party.’
‘So when you see the next report from a building site of a female stop and go member who’s just there to do her job being abused by some bikie or some member of the CFMEU, know that it is sanctioned by this prime minister,’ Mr Dutton said
The opposition leader said Mr Albanese was showing his true colours by moving to abolish the ABCC in the first week of Parliament.
‘He has changed the policy that is going to result in higher inflation and higher construction costs in this country and they have decided that that is their highest priority in the opening days of this government,’ he said.
‘It says a lot about this government, it says a lot about their priorities, and it says a lot about how the ALP will always put union bosses’ interests ahead of the interests of the Australian public.’
Ms Ley piled on in her speech, calling the ABCC a ‘tough cop on the beat’ and claiming Labor was prioritising what the CFMEU wanted over what workers, the economy, and women on worksites needed.
‘That’s the Albanese accord – CFMEU donations go in and policy comes out,’ she said.
Mr Burke countered by pointing out the first act of government was to ask for the minimum wage to rise and the first legistlation was domestic violence leave.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has already defunded the Australian Building and Construction Commission and will legislate to dismantle it in coming days
He then quoted judges of the Federal Court blasting the ABCC’s attempts to prosecute numerous cases.
Judges ridiculed the prosecution of two CFMEU officials for ‘having a cup of tea with a mate’ and described the case as ‘a miniscule, insignificanrt affair’.
The ABCC was also described as ‘a battleship at full steam with difficulty turning’ where ‘proceedings [are] conducted as a blood sport’.
Lisa Chesters, the MP for Bendigo, pointed out two more examples of what Labor believed were trivial and vindictive cases.
One was a five-year legal battle between the CFMEU and ABCC after union officials asked for a female toilet to be installed on a building site.
When the company declined to do so, the officials sent all the workers home and the employer gave in and installed the toilet.
The ABCC argued this was illegal strike action and got the union fined $50,000 until the Federal Court overturned it on appeal last year.
The second was in Ms Chesters’ electorate, a CFMEU official rushed to a worksite because a friend of his who worked there fell and was seriously injured, and the ABCC went after him for not giving enough notice of site entry.
The New PM and Opposition Leader have butted heads in a fiery Question Time as Parliament resumed this week (pictured)
The ABCC side discussion immediately followed a rowdy question time where the Coalition repeatedly went after Mr Albanese on the issue.
‘Officials from the CFMEU have been charged with thousands of offences. Has the Prime Minister met with any of the union bosses accused of criminal behaviour, including sexual assault, harassment and rape?’ Mr Dutton asked.
The question sparked raucous shouting from the Parliamentary floor with the Speaker having to intervene.
‘I give the call to the prime minister. Order.’
‘Mr Speaker, if the Member opposite has an allegation or wants to know someone I met with, he should say it,’ Mr Albanese replied.
‘No, he has not. If he wants to name somebody, he is perfectly entitled to. But he is not entitled to do is to engage in that sort of smear tactics.’
Deputy Opposition Leader Susan Ley continued with the onslaught when she later stepped up to the microphone.
‘I refer to comments he (Mr Albanese) just made that the watchdog is a waste of taxpayer money.’
New Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has roasted Opposition leader Peter Dutton in his first parliamentary grilling as PM (pictured)
Ms Ley said the ABCC was pursuing a union official over allegations of ‘pushing, shoving and verbally abusing a female health and safety manager’.
‘Does the prime minister seriously believe that pursuing this vile behaviour is a waste of taxpayer’s money, and why is Labor making a bad situation worse?’
Mr Albanese shot up from his seat to reply Ms Ley.
‘I believe if someone commits assault, they should be charged with assault and dealt with. That is what I believe. I am surprised that you don’t.’
‘That is an invitation against every member on this side,’ Ms Ley said.
‘The prime minister just said that you don’t believe assault is a serious matter. Of course we do.’
Mr Albanese then claimed the ABCC had ‘spent over $500,000 as of taxpayers’ money, enforcing a blanket ban on putting stickers and posters with union logos up on websites.’
His government will allow funding for the construction watchdog to lapse if efforts to abolish the commission fail.
Mr Burke said he wanted to see the ABCC out the door with legislation to scrap the agency to be introduced later this year.
Mr Albanese (pictured) was questioned over his government’s plan to dismantle the building industry watchdog
The commission’s powers will be reduced to the bare minimum before reverting to the Fair Work Ombudsman and to health and safety regulators.
Mr Burke said should the legislation to abolish the watchdog not pass through the parliament, the funding would not be renewed.
‘Their funding on the pre-election costings that were released dries up anyway,’ he told ABC Radio on Tuesday.
‘There’s an extent that there’s minimum fees you have to pay for board members and things like that, that’s not unknown.’
However the head of the commission would still be paid his $450,000 salary.
Mr Burke said the salary would still have to be continued until the watchdog is repealed, due to it being a statutory appointment.
‘I would have loved to abolish the organisation yesterday,’ he said.
Funding for the Australian Building and Construction Commission will be allowed to lapse if Labor can’t pass its dismantling through Parliament
‘But, you know, in terms of legislative program, that legislation will come probably in a couple of months time.’
Independent senator David Pocock said there was a need to find a balance between ensuring workers have access to union support without intimidation returning to worksites.
Mr Burke said he had been in discussion with Senator Pocock about the legislation.
‘We’ve been in touch via text. There’s a conversation that we we haven’t had because this announcement obviously was was only made on Sunday,’ he said.
Opposition employment spokeswoman Michaelia Cash said there was confusion in the industry following the decision to scrap the watchdog.
‘The industry was expecting consultation period, an orderly transition period, certainly not having it rushed on them like this,’ she told ABC radio on Tuesday.
‘That is not a great start to a government that has only been elected a few weeks ago.’