Senate still unsure on building industry watchdog

THE Senate crossbench looks likely to hand the Turnbull government a second trigger for a double dissolution, but the prospect of an early election remains unlikely.

On the first sitting day of 2016, the government re-introduced its bill to re-instate a building industry watchdog, despite its previous attempts being rejected by the Senate.

Passage of the bill would reinstate the Howard-era Australian Building and Construction Commission, which investigated misconduct and criminal allegations in the industry.

Re-establishing the ABCC was a key recommendation of the royal commission into trade unions, which exposed numerous examples of crooked conduct by union officials and players in the building sector.

The government is using a confidential volume of the commission's report - said to detail specific examples of criminal behaviour - as leverage to get enough Senate support for the new commission.

Labor and the Greens had previously asked the government to release the confidential volume.

Although the government at first rejected those calls, it changed its mind on Monday night after crossbenchers were offered access to the report.

That had shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus seeing red yesterday.

"For weeks the government has been point blank refusing to provide these volumes, now it has backflipped," he told the ABC.

"The government has got itself into a huge mess because it wanted to play politics with this report - it's either confidential or it's not."

Labor and the Greens have rejected the government's conditions to read the report, which include that only one MP from each party gains access, is unable to take notes and not permitted to discuss the report's contents.

With six of the eight crossbenchers undecided on the merits of reinstating the ABCC, it would appear the government has a battle on its hands to get the numbers.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told a party room meeting yesterday morning that a double dissolution election was a "live option".

The government already has a double dissolution trigger, with a bill to reform unions rejected twice by the Senate.



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