The Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union has launched a fresh assault on the federal government's union-busting laws amid ongoing controversy surrounding its top Victorian official.
The coalition is using construction union secretary John Setka as the poster boy for its "ensuring integrity" bill, which makes it easier to ban unions and officials, while also establishing a public interest test for mergers.
Key independent senator Jacqui Lambie has warned she will back the legislation unless Mr Setka quits, while the Australian Council of Trade Unions has also called for him to step down.
On Wednesday, Mr Setka launched an appeal against a court ruling that Labor had the right to expel him for bringing the party into disrepute through allegations of domestic violence.
But Dave Noonan, the national secretary of the CFMMEU's construction division, is urging crossbench senators to focus on the real "crisis" in the industry.
"These laws are the most extreme in the western world. Only Brazil has similar laws that carry over from when they were a dictatorship," he told AAP on Wednesday.
The powerful militant union argues the bill aims to silence union leaders, lower safety standards, clamp rights at work and cut wages.
"This bill does nothing to fix the real crisis in construction in Australia. The only thing it ensures is fatter profits for property developers, lower wages and worse safety," Mr Noonan said.
"This law lets off company directors responsible for deaths on construction sites, defective building standards, wage theft, sham contracting and phoenix companies."
The new CFMMEU campaign centres on the union's research around major issues in the construction sector.
The Shaky Foundations report showed apartment block defects and flammable cladding could cost $6.2 billion to fix across Australia.
A separate piece of research showed cost blowouts and delays wasted $10.8 billion in taxpayers' money over the past decade, with the potential for a further whack of $5 billion over the next three years.
The report found the costs were a direct result of federal and state governments not retaining expertise in project procurement, blaming outsourcing and sloppy regulation.
Mr Setka has refused to resign, describing moves against him as a personal campaign designed to distract from the "extreme" workplace laws.
Senator Lambie, along with Centre Alliance's Rex Patrick and Stirling Griff, will be crucial to the bill's fate when it likely comes to a vote later in the year.
Australian Associated Press