Posters in construction workplaces raising awareness of safety, mental health or sexual harassment would be torn down by the industry regulator if they displayed a union logo.
Officials from the Australian Building and Construction Commission were asked during the Senate estimates on Wednesday whether it would order building contractors bidding for government work to withdraw them.
The regulator requires that all union logos and mottos be banned on clothing, goods or equipment supplied by an employer covered by its code on construction sites.
“The poster can stay up, the logo can’t…is the short answer,” Commissioner Stephen McBurney said during the hearing.
A contractor found guilty of breaking the rules would have the opportunity to rectify it, officials said.
Senator Louise Pratt asked if a charity campaign organized by a union would be allowed to carry a logo.
In response, Mr McBurney said the charity poster could be displayed, without the union or employers’ association logo, if the message was to be placed on employer equipment.
“The union can do whatever it wants, with charity posters and charity posts of its own on its own social media for its own members,” he said.
“The code only applies to building contractors wishing to tender for Commonwealth works.”
Senator Pratt asked Deputy Minister of Industrial Relations Amanda Stoker what she thought of the rules, as she supported free speech.
Senator Stoker hit back saying she believes in free speech but also supports “the labor relations laws that exist in this country.”
“Of course, every individual has the right to raise any topic of public discussion where they really want at their own pace,” she said.
“But when they’re at work, when they’re using property that isn’t theirs, there are limits.”
The hearing was also told that the ABCC did not prosecute any entity for “sham contracting”, which is when a worker is hired as an independent contractor rather than an employee. .
The regulator’s Madeleine Jones had previously said in estimates that “the bar for proving a fictitious contract is very high”.
Meanwhile, Fair Work Commission chief executive Murray Furlong could not rule out further appointments as the prime minister is days away from calling a federal election.
“It’s the government’s business,” he told senators.
Mr Furlong said there was funding for 44 senior members – and another vacancy for a commissioner after a resignation last week.
The Morrison government has been criticized for making a series of formal appointments – some with Liberal Party links – as it nears interim mode.
Australian Associated Press