It’s time for tradies to defend their rights

Master Builders Australia has used its submission to the Senate Education and Employment Legislation Committee Closing Loopholes Bill 2023 inquiry to provide a detailed analysis of the severe and damaging consequences on the building and construction industry.

“Make no mistake, this Bill is not about closing loopholes and is littered with far-reaching implications that go well beyond the Government’s election commitments,” said Master Builders Australia CEO Denita Wawn.

“Master Builders rejects the Bill in its entirety. Most of the amendments will negatively impact the over 440,000 businesses that operate in building and construction and the 1.3 million people they employ.

“We support the move by Senator David Pocock and Senator Jacqui Lambie to bring forward non-contentious changes to the asbestos safety and eradication agency, strengthening protections against discrimination, support for first responders, and the small business redundancy exemption.

“Master Builders urges the Committee not to underestimate the severe damage the changes in this Bill will bring to the building and construction industry.

“The amendments proposed are significant and represent a radical departure from several long-standing approaches that previously enjoyed bi-partisan support.

“The Bill represents a fundamental upheaval of many tried and tested components of Australian workplace laws that have been features for decades and is simply bad law and policy.

“It is complex, complicated, costly and unnecessary. It will hurt small business and undermines people’s rights to be their own boss.

“It will be a lawyer’s picnic and despite comments suggesting it won’t impact building and construction, the Bill as introduced very clearly opens the door by taking a general approach of ‘you are in, unless you can argue your way out’.

As explained in the submission, the Bill:

  • Does not merely ‘close loopholes’ as its name infers.
  • Threatens the use of independent contracting and subcontracting.
  • Creates uncertainty, risk and more disputation.
  • Will exacerbate key industry challenges and hurt small businesses.
  • Hurts other parts of the economy on which builders depend.
  • Stifles competition and drives up costs of building.
  • Changes how unfair contracts are treated creating more uncertainty, loss of protections and more third-party interference.
  • Attacks flexibility and independence.
  • Presumes all business conduct is deliberate and intentional.
  • Does nothing to improve or support workplace productivity.
  • Leaves key matters to be set by regulation at the stroke of the Ministerial pen.
  • Is at odds with other Government priorities.

“The Government has not made a case for these changes. They have not explained how these laws will lift wages, boost productivity or make it easier to create more jobs.

“The proposed laws mean independent contractors won’t have the freedom to choose the hours they work, the projects they work on, or negotiate their own fees and conditions.

“Instead, they could be forced to become an employee or spend unnecessary time and money in front of the Fair Work Commission to defend their right to own and run their business.

“Independent contractors and subcontractors deserve the right to be their own boss.

“This Bill opens more options for unions to influence and control a large part of the sector and interfere in commercial matters.

“Builders and tradies know that the prospect of being forced into union-dictated pattern ‘one size fits all’ EBAs, with inflexible and unproductive work practices, is a very real possibility.

“In the midst of a cost of living and housing crisis, the flow on effects of unnecessary delays and increased costs to construction cannot be justified,” Ms Wawn said.