National

Every day we are moving closer to an election now, although in some ways I think we have seen it coming well before the Senate changes and early Budget and so it will be a very long campaign. We may even know the date at the time you read this article. The issue for all of us, be we contractors, paid employees or those looking for work, is will an election and new, or same government re-elected, change anything? Unfortunately my gut at this times suggest it will not. Nothing that has happened in the terms of the last four Prime Ministers and associated governments, gives me confidence that the new term will be any different. Indeed the likely changes in the numbers in both houses may even lead to a more cautious approach and at this stage I would not be confident that there will be a more functional operation of the Senate than in recent times.

Notwithstanding this, I do believe that there is still a good understanding of the benefits of spending on infrastructure for both economic and political reasons by all in politics and we should see this continuing for some time. Elections tend to come with a lot of spending promises and often it actually happens! It also means that those of us already working on government projects will be pushed for early completions or milestone events to create photo opportunities but without other real benefits and often unnecessary effort and cost for our members. At the time of writing, the ABCC bill has not been passed and is being used for party political purposes and I suspect will not go through before the election. This is probably a good outcome because I suspect if it was not able to be used as a suitable trigger, the current government would not be pursuing it, so either it will be put through by the Senate to save some of their own jobs, or if it triggers the dissolution, the government will have to follow through with it in the new term, notwithstanding, they may still not have the numbers.

Even while writing this, the cross benches are still trying to negotiate a deal and if I were in the chair, I would seriously consider taking it. Getting the Bill passed, even with some incorporation of other industries is a good outcome. We should fight corruption in all sectors not just construction. Missing out on a double dissolution may not be such a bad thing. If, as some predict, the process will just replace the micro parties with more Green seats, then I would suggest this would not help with either party in government.

Clearly this is an opinion piece and I have little expertise in these matters, but I find myself more and more frustrated by what happens in our Nation’s capital and wonder if there is a better democratic system out there. Then I read a bit on the latest American political debates and process, and think perhaps we are not as bad as I thought!

Recent National Board meetings have spent time looking at the future of our organisation and we will continue to discuss this and canvas options with Branches and members. The main current focus, however, is to capitalise on our Canberra presence and contacts to promote the strength and ability of our industry to influence the national political agenda.  It would not be fair to pretend we have enough lobbying power to be considered one of the big players, but at a time when many industries are struggling and infrastructure is still well understood, I believe we can have some influence.

  

Regular readers will probably realise that sometimes I write my article over a period of time and it is often more a series of points rather than one common thread. This approach did cause me to lose a point I intended to make in my most recent article. I talked about the large number of road projects I was seeing on my travels. One thing that stood out was that it was often difficult, if not impossible to tell who was constructing them. Historically it was obvious from a range of signs, but with modern contracting the plant is often mostly from hire companies and a range of smaller subcontract companies, the traffic management is almost universally outsourced so looking on the back of the signs does not help, the site huts are always covered in hire names and there does not seem to be the same pride in emblazoning the project with the company name. I know we have no need to advertise to the man in the street as they do not often hire us and perhaps it helps avoid phone calls of complaint about travel delays, but I consider it an unfortunate characteristic of the modern industry that we do not proudly display ourselves. I know some of the smaller companies still do this and I find it a good reminder of some of the grass roots beginnings of those that I know, and makes me wonder about those that I don’t. I think we need to demonstrate pride and acknowledgment of our own efforts if we want to get that same recognition from our governments and public authorities.

Tony Baulderstone