New year, new chief for controversial building industry watchdog

By Stephen Easton

Monday January 8, 2018

He’s umpired AFL grand finals and investigated major organised crime syndicates, both of which should have prepared Victorian lawyer Stephen McBurney to lead the controversial Australian Building and Construction Commission.

The new Minister for Small and Family Business, the Workplace and Deregulation, Craig Laundy, announced McBurney had been chosen through “a merit-based selection process” and would begin the five-year appointment on February 6, in a statement on Friday.

“I congratulate Mr McBurney on his appointment. He joins us from the Victorian Office of Chief
Examiner, where he has been responsible for investigating serious organised crime over the last
nine years,” said Laundy, who took over responsibility for the ABCC in Malcolm Turnbull’s Christmas reshuffle.

McBurney took the top job as Chief Examiner in October 2015, and was also involved with litigation conducted by the previous iteration of the ABCC before it was abolished, as an assistant commissioner from 2006-08, responsible for the implementation of compliance powers.

“In addition to his outstanding legal career, Mr McBurney was one of the AFL’s most experienced
and highly regarded umpires, one of four umpires to reach the 400-game milestone,” Laundy added.

“The building industry is a vital sector of Australia’s economy, employing more than one million
Australians. The ABCC plays a critical role in maintaining the rule of law and promoting improved
workplace relations to ensure building work is carried out fairly, productively and for the benefit
of all.”

The last ABCC head, Nigel Hadkiss, resigned from the position in September after it emerged he had directed staff to act in contravention of the Fair Work Act. He had been relying on assurances from his minister that a piece of the previous government’s legislation would be repealed, and was caught short after things did not transpire that way.

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