Secret report may fall short in push for building watchdog

EMPLOYMENT Minister Michaelia Cash has rejected Senate criticisms that the government is using a secret Royal Commission report into trade unions as leverage to back the creation of a building industry watchdog.

Just two days into the parliamentary year in Canberra, it appears the government's second attempt to reinstate the Australian Building and Construction Commission will fail.

During debate on the bill yesterday, a government backbencher cited his own experience as a construction contractor in an appeal to the crossbench to pass the bill.

Hinkler MP Keith Pitt said he had seen tyres let down and toolboxes filled with glue, and was once told to "put $30,000 in a brown paper bag" if he wanted to win a construction job.

Mr Pitt called on the crossbench to pass the bill to help the integrity of the construction industry, and regional employers and workers.

With Labor and the Greens refusing to support the bill, the government is in talks with Senate crossbenchers, but only two have confirmed their support.

The government has relied on the findings of the Royal Commission, which recommended the watchdog be reinstated, as part of the case to pass the bill.

However, it has also offered crossbenchers, Labor and the Greens a chance to read a secret part of the report detailing criminal allegations, but only four crossbenchers have accepted.

Worryingly for the government, those four - senators Jacqui Lambie, Dio Wang, Glenn Lazarus and Ricky Muir - are understood to be leaning against passing the bills.

Senator Cash said none of the four had yet seen the report, but the government would be "facilitating access" this week.

Senator Muir has accused the government of using the report to influence his voting on the bill, saying he would rather take all information into account.

But Senator Cash denied the report was being used as a lever to pass the bills, saying the case for the ABCC was "well established".


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