The Courier-Mail


- Des Houghton Email: Twitter: @DesHoughto­n

PALMER United Party deserter Glenn Lazarus, now an independen­t senator, did something really stupid last week.

The former Origin prop voted to make Queensland taxpayers pay hundreds of millions extra for new schools, hospitals, bridges, dams and roads.

Lazarus (pictured) spilt the ball on the line in one of the most important (and most ignored) votes in the Upper House in years.

It happened when the 1992 Dally M prop of the year joined the Labor Party and the Greens in blocking a Bill to reinstate the Australian Building and Constructi­on Commission, the constructi­on watchdog axed by the Gillard government.

A constructi­on code of conduct for government building work came with the Bill and it was rejected also.

The legally binding code would have weakened the unions’ strangleho­ld on the nation’s $57 billion government constructi­on sector.

Government projects make up a third of all constructi­on in this country.

It meant enterprise bargaining agreements would have had to comply with the code in improving efficienci­es and abolishing restrictiv­e work practices – es- pecially the requiremen­t for subbies to be CFMEU members on major government work sites.

Master Builders Queensland calculates that thanks to Lazarus and others who voted down the commission, Queensland­ers will pay 10 per cent more for State Government buildings.

A $1.5 billion hospital, for instance, will end up costing us $150 million more than it should.

The Senate vote was 33 all. No golden points in the Senate, I’m afraid.

The Bill was defeated and an opportunit­y to restore the rule of law in the Australian building industry was lost.

Crossbench senators John Madigan, David Leyonhjelm, Bob Day and Nick Xenophon voted in favour of reviving the watchdog. Good for them.

Jacqui Lambie and Ricky Muir, inexplicab­ly – and irresponsi­bly in my view – joined Lazarus in voting with Labor and the Greens.

Curiously, PUP Senator Zhenya Wang, who previously supported the reinstatem­ent of the commission, abstained. Why?

With the media distracted by the union witch-hunt against Royal Commission­er Dyson Heydon, the historic vote hardly rated in the media.

However, I do like what former Labor minister Gary Johns wrote in The Austra


“ALP, Green and independen­t senators who voted against the reinstatem­ent of the Australian Building and Constructi­on Commission voted to prolong corruption. They should be ashamed,” he said.

Lazarus maintains he stands up for the workers so his vote mystified me. I rang him for an explanatio­n. He was too busy to talk. However his wife, Tess, who said she was his press secretary, offered to prepare a written statement. I am still waiting for it.

Equally mystifying was Lambie’s vote.

Only days before in Parliament she asked why the CFMEU had not been deregister­ed, given that the “CFMEU leadership is involved in a wide range of serious criminal activities – blackmail, extortion, death threats and assault – and associatio­ns with outlaw bikie gangs, killers and underworld figures”.

Employment Minister Eric Abetz told Lambie the union movement had changed.

“It was in fact a proud union movement, and a proud Labor leader was willing to call corruption as corruption and thuggery as thuggery, and that is why Bob Hawke and the ACTU at the time were willing to move for the deregistra­tion of the BLF,” he said.

“They would not countenanc­e the good name of trade unionism being trashed by those elements.”

Perhaps Lazarus and Lambie were unaware the building code would have obliged build-

They wait for the phone call from the trade union heavy to tell them what to do

ing companies not to turn a blind eye to unlawful conduct on their sites.

Perhaps they were unaware the code proposed obligation­s on employers only, not to unions or the workers.

Abetz accused the unions of running a misleading campaign.

He said the code would not ban penalty rates. It did not determine rates of pay, nor did it discrimina­te against older workers or ban days off at Christmas or rostered days off.

Lazarus and others who voted down the code voted in favour of allowing countless millions of dollars of taxpayer dollars to be wasted.

Without a majority in the Senate, Tony Abbott is fighting union corruption with one hand tied behind his back.

The Senate vote was a victory for Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.

And it came, ironically, as the ABC’s Four Corners was turning the blowtorch on his days as boss of the AWU.

Workers told Four Corners that Shorten was “selling us out” by taking money from employers to fill AWU coffers at the same time it negotiated industrial deals that cost jobs.

The former staff at Chiquita Mushrooms said the AWU under Shorten’s leadership produced a “terrible” result for its members. And so it did. The excellent program also revealed how the union movement wields power within the Labor Party.

Former union leader and Labor federal minister Martin Ferguson savaged the party’s dependence on the union movement, telling Four Cor

ners that Labor MPs took or- ders from Labor “heavies” on what to do.

“It’s the union movement now who funds individual candidates, it’s the union movement who has such a big say on the preselecti­on of not just the senators where they always had a big say, it’s almost as if they sit down now and divide up the cake,” Ferguson said.

“There’s no independen­ce to some extent among too many Caucus members at the moment. They wait for the phone call from the trade union heavy to tell them what to do.”

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 ?? Pictures: Jack Tran ??
Pictures: Jack Tran

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