PM wants to end construction lawlessness

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says parliament must vote to end the “lawlessness” in the construction sector that is costing the economy billions or Australians will go to an early election.

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Federal MPs and senators are heading back to Canberra for this week’s special sitting to vote on key legislation to restore the Australian Building and Construction Commission and the registered organisations bill.

Mr Turnbull said on Sunday the government had made it very clear that if the ABCC bill was rejected by the Senate for a second time, then both houses of parliament would be dissolved and an election held on July 2.

“The lawlessness in the construction sector has intensified since Labor took the tough cop off the beat,” Mr Turnbull reporters in Canberra on Sunday.

Over 100 officials from the CFMEU are before the courts on 1000 charges for breaking industrial law, he said.

If the Senate decided to vote the two bills down again, he hoped it would do so swiftly.

With Labor and the Greens opposed to the bills, the government needs the support of six of the eight crossbenchers.

Attorney-General George Brandis has no idea how senators will vote.

“I think it would be a fool’s errand to make hard and fast predictions about what the Senate might do,” Senator Brandis, who is also Leader of the Government in the Senate, told Sky News.

Labor’s workplace relations spokesman Brendan O’Connor says the ABCC is bad policy that does not lead to better productivity and removes basic rights of workers.

“There are more rights afforded to alleged drug dealers than there would be for ordinary construction workers,” Mr O’Connor told Sky News.

Independent senator Glenn Lazarus won’t vote for the ABCC because he wants a national corruption watchdog.

“I don’t think we need to be attacking one particular sector, we need to be covering all misconduct and corruption,” he told ABC television.

Liberal Democratic senator David Leyonhjelm has also hardened his position against the ABCC.

“Frankly I don’t think the government even wants it to pass,” Senator Leyonhjelm told Sky News.

Another independent senator Jacqui Lambie said the legislation has “more holes than a firing range”.

But Family First senator Bob Day will support the ABCC.

“There are hundreds of thousands of people who work in the construction industry whose daily lives are a nightmare, they want the corruption to stop and want to get on with their lives,” he told ABC television.

Independent senator Nick Xenophon is also sympathetic to a number of measures in the ABCC bill but wants amendments around occupational health and safety.

He says there are two steps in the process for the bill to be debated – what is known as the second reading stage, which is a vote on whether the legislation should be further debated, or whether it should go into committee where amendments can be considered before it is put to a vote.

“I think it is touch and go whether it will even get through the first hurdle,” Senator Xenophon told ABC television.