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‘Smear tactics’: Anthony Albanese fires up in Question Time

Labor’s plan to scrap the national construction watchdog has fuelled fierce disagreement between MPs upon their return to Canberra.

The first Question Time of the 47th parliament descended into bouts of disarray as MPs returned to familiar stomping ground — clashing over unions.

The Albanese government earlier this week announced it would move to abolish the Australian Building and Construction Commission later this year.

The Coalition set up the controversial body in 2016 to tackle lawlessness and union intimidation in the building industry.

Now on the opposition benches, Liberal MPs seized on the scrapping of the ABCC in the House of Representatives on Wednesday by arguing it was needed to police the powerful Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton kicked off by claiming CFMEU officials had been charged with “thousands of offences” and asking Anthony Albanese if he had met with any union bosses charged of criminal behaviour.

The Prime Minister accused Mr Dutton of engaging in “smear tactics”.

Camera IconPrime Minister Anthony Albanese has defended his government’s plan to scrap the ABCC. NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage Credit: News Corp Australia

Liberal deputy leader Sussan Ley continued the attack by asking how Mr Albanese could call the ABCC a “waste of taxpayers’ money” given it was pursuing a CFMEU official for “allegedly pushing, shoving and verbally abusing a female health and safety manager”.

“Does the Prime Minister seriously believe that pursuing this vile behaviour is a waste of taxpayer‘s money, and why is Labor making a bad situation worse?” she said.

The ABCC prior to the federal election announced it would take court action against the CFMEU and three officials — one of whom Ms Ley named in parliament — over alleged incidents in 2020.

The CFMEU has disputed the ABCC’s account of the events.

Camera IconOpposition Leader Peter Dutton criticised Mr Albanese over the CFMEU on Wednesday. NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage Credit: News Corp Australia

Mr Albanese fired back by saying: “I believe if someone commits assault, they should be charged with assault and dealt with. That is what I believe. I am surprised that you don’t.”

His remarks sparked a fierce backlash from the Opposition.

Mr Albanese shouted over the ensuing hubbub to make several claims about the ABCC, including that it spent $500,000 on an unsuccessful case brought against a union who requested a women’s toilet on a worksite.

Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke has said some of the ABCC’s powers will be returned to the Fair Work Ombudsman and to health and safety regulators.

The Coalition and the building industry have fiercely opposed the move to scrap the watchdog.

Master Builders Australia earlier this week warned that abolishing the regulator risked driving up costs and the return of unacceptable behaviour at worksites.

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