HG Alert: Building and Construction watchdog sent to pound - Jun 2009

The Commonwealth Government has introduced legislation to amend the Building and Construction Industry Improvement Act.

The Building and Construction Industry Improvement Amendment (Transition to Fair Work) Bill 2009 aims to create a strong but fair set of compliance arrangements for the building and construction industry.

The Bill aims to abolish the notorious building and construction watchdog, the Australian Building and Construction Commission, and replace it with the Fair Work – Building Industry Inspectorate.

In a response to a report provided by the Hon. Murray Wilcox QC, the Bill will implement new safeguards while maintaining the existing coercive powers of the Act. The most significant reforms for construction industry participants include:

  • abolishing the Australian Building and Construction Commission and creating the Office of the Fair Work - Building Industry Inspectorate to regulate the building and construction industry;
  • removing the existing building-industry specific laws that provide for high penalties and broader circumstances for penalties to be applied;
  • allowing the Director of the Building Inspectorate to compulsorily obtain information or documents;
  • creating safeguards relating to the use of power to compulsorily obtain information or documents.These powers will be subject to a five-year sunset clause and the safeguards will require that:
    • a presidential member of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal be satisfied a case has been made before the use of the powers;
    • legal representation is provided to anyone summonsed to interview;
    • reasonable expenses (including reasonable legal expenses) are reimbursed for anyone summonsed for examination;
    • all examinations are video taped and reviewed by the Commonwealth Ombudsman.
  • creating an office (the Independent Assessor) that, on application from stakeholders, may decide that examination notice powers will not apply to a particular project. Unions in particular will be granted exemptions from the coercive powers of the Building Inspectorate if they can show they have complied with the law on particular
    building projects.

If the legislation is passed through Parliament, the Building Inspectorate will begin operating in February next year.

For more information on the Bill, please contact HopgoodGanim’s Construction, Infrastructure and Major Projects team.