ABCC refusing access to Master Builders docs

Published: 20 Jul 2022

The ABCC is refusing to give access to documents detailing the agency's interactions with the Master Builders in the lead up to the 2019 election, raising concerns of a cover-up.

A previous Freedom of Information request from the CFMEU revealed ABCC Commissioner Stephen McBurney held a covert meeting with the Master Builders that discussed election strategy earlier this year, and that the ABCC and MBA were sharing election material in the months before the May 2022 poll.

As reported in The Australian today, the CFMEU sought details of the ABCC's dealings with the Master Builders in the lead up to the 2019 poll. The ABCC has refused to hand over a number of documents it has identified as "potentially relevant" to the union’s FOI claim and says it will take too much time to identify more.

"The ABCC's refusal to hand over documents smacks of a cover-up," said Dave Noonan, CFMEU National Construction Secretary.

“We are concerned the ABCC is not interested in transparency, particularly given the fact that our last FOI revealed they were conducting secret, strategic meetings with the MBA in the run-up to the 2022 election.”

“It seems likely to us that this was a routine activity of the ABCC to be conducting strategic discussions with the Liberal Party-aligned Master Builders in the run-up to federal elections.

“They certainly did this in 2022, and it’s completely inappropriate for a government agency with serious powers, that presents itself as being politically neutral and independent, to be engaged in strategic meetings with an employer body, particularly one that is actively campaigning for the Liberal Party at the election.”

"The CFMEU has previously raised concerns about unusual spikes in the agency's legal activity and media reporting against unions in the months before both the 2019 and 2022 elections."

“The ABCC has been operating as a taxpayer funded arm of the Liberal Party and participating in partisan political activity in clear contravention of its role as a supposedly independent and fair regulator. It must be abolished.”