Abbott calls for a return of the building commission

PRIME Minister Tony Abbott says new revelations of links between unions and organised crime in the construction industry has strengthened the case for the return of the building commission, with "full power, full funding and full authority".

Mr Abbott made the comments in Canberra after Fairfax and ABC reported allegations that kickbacks and bribery was rife within the commercial construction industry.

Those reports said sources and documents showed corruption among CFMEU officials in New South Wales and Victoria, including union links to bikies and organised criminals.

The reports come as the Abbott Government prepares to re-establish the Australian Building and Construction Commission to rid the industry of corruption.

Mr Abbott said the latest revelations only strengthened the case for the return of the commission, which he said would be re-established with "full power, full funding and full authority".

The government is also preparing to establish a judicial inquiry into union funds, but Mr Abbott refused to say if that inquiry would be a Royal Commission.

While he said a "Royal Commission is a judicial inquiry", he would not be drawn on the nature of the inquiry promised before the September election.

Neither Mr Abbott nor Employment Minister Senator Eric Abetz would comment on whether the terms of that inquiry would be widened to include wider allegations of corruption among union officials.

Sen Abetz told ABC Radio on Tuesday that having both an inquiry and a new commission was not a duplication, saying there was a need for both an ongoing body to investigate the building industry, as well as an inquiry into unions.

The government has already moved to link such allegations to the Labor Party, with Sen Abetz saying the Opposition "need to acknowledge that there is corruption and there is the need (for the commission)".

Labor's employment spokesman Brendan O'Connor said the party had no tolerance for such practices and "condemns corruption and bribery in all its forms".

Mr O'Connor said the previous government had assessed the previous commission and found that productivity and safety in the industry had not improved.

"But if there are any allegations of criminal behaviour, then that should be dealt with by law enforcement agencies and that's where those matters should lie," he said.

Justice Minister Michael Keenan said in a statement the Australian Crime Commission was working with state police agencies to investigate organised crime links in the building industry.



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