INTERVIEW: WILHELM HARNISCH, CEO OF MASTER BUILDERS AUSTRALIA.
JON FAINE PROGRAM, ABC RADIO MELBOURNE.
PRIME MINSITER’S ANNOUNCEMENT ABOUT THE ABCC.
JON FAINE (HOST): That was Dave Oliver, Secretary of the ACTU, the Australian Council of Trade Unions and we are now joined by Wilhelm Harnisch who is Chief Executive Officer of the Master Builders Australia, the organisation representing the construction industry.
Wilhelm good morning to you.
WILHELM HARNISCH (CEO MASTER BUILDERS AUSTRALIA): Good morning Jon.
JON FAINE: Do you think that an election based solely on the excesses of the CFMEU as uncovered in the Royal Commission is justified at this stage?
WILHELM HARNISCH: Look, what Master Builders is supporting is the reintroduction of the strong cop on the beat, the ABCC.
Now Prime Minister Turnbull’s decision to recall Parliament demonstrates to the industry that the Government continues to be serious about tackling unlawful industrial behaviour in the building industry and that is strongly welcomed by Master Builders.
On the issue about calling an election, that is a matter for the Prime Minister and you should ask him about that.
JON FAINE: Do you concede the point Dave Oliver was trying to make something of a moment ago that the ABCC is an industrial relations regulator not an anti-corruption fighter.
WILHELM HARNISCH: That’s correct, and that’s exactly what the Bill is about. So those people who are saying that this about dealing with criminality and corruption are missing the point.
What the ABCC Bills are about is tackling the very culture that can leads to corruption and criminality to flourish.
But what we’re also trying to do through the ABCC is to make sure that the ordinary worker can come to work and be treated like other ordinary workers without being confronted by aggression, denigration and bullying and also where women on building sites, and in offices, can come to work without being subjected to aggression and abuse.
This is what this is about and of course there are benefits then as a consequence to the community and to the economy as a consequence.
JON FAINE: When we get to the proper election campaign Wilhelm, undoubtedly it will be about tax and jobs and all the sorts of things that election campaigns always involve; education, health, disability services and the like, but for the next, I don’t know, eight weeks through April and into May, it’s going to be all about the CFMEU, the Dyson Heydon Royal Commission which is supposedly the build up to all of this and I’m not sure, are you confident that people for the next six to eight weeks are happy to be daily bombarded with the justification for this entire drawn out process being the excesses of the construction industry in this?
WILHELM HARNISCH: Well, we certainly hope so and only time will tell, but Jon, I think what’s important is that people get the true story because the true story is here we have the CFMEU and other building unions that don’t act like normal people.
Here we have the CFMEU and other building unions that as a matter of culture believe they have the right to break the law on a daily basis.
JON FAINE: And their side argument Wilhelm is well for everyone who receives a bribe or a kick back there’s someone who’s paying it out and offering it and if you have a look at some of the excesses in corporate Australia well the union’s just doing what it can for the workers to keep up.
WILHELM HARNISCH: Well the two matters – I mean the matter of criminality and fraud are totally separate from the ABCC and there are agencies that deal with criminality.
JON FAINE: Sorry a moment ago you said it was integral to the ABCC and that was the point of the reforms.
WILHELM HARNISCH: Well it is, what’s integral is that the ABCC tackles the CFMEU’s ingrained and institutionalised culture of criminality that allows corruption and criminality to flourish.
JON FAINE: Sorry Wilhelm I’m now completely confused. A moment ago you said that the point of the reforms was so that it could deal with criminality and now a moment ago you said the opposite.
WILHELM HARNISCH: No hang on, what I did say Jon was the ABCC is dealing with a culture that can lead to criminality and corruption. It is there to stop it. The remit of the ABCC Bills is not to deal with criminality but to deal with the CFMEU culture that leads to it.
The ABCC then has the powers to refer these matters to the authorities like the ACCC and other authorities – for them to deal with it so that’s the important point.
JON FAINE: I hope you haven’t added to it. Thank you indeed. As I said to Dave Oliver, undoubtedly we’ll have many opportunities to speak again and for longer during the course of this election campaign.
Thank you for your time.
WILHELM HARNISCH: Thank you very much.
JON FAINE: Wilhelm Harnisch, Chief Executive Officer of the MBA, the Master Builders Australia umbrella body.