ABCC bans eureka, cops backlash

In February, Malcolm Turnbull’s Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) instructed contractors to remove union stickers, clothing and flags worn and used by workers on Australia’s building sites. 

In a shock to many, the order explicitly included the Eureka flag – a longstanding symbol of freedom and democracy for millions of Australians. The ABCC wrote to builders instructing them that they had to remove: 

“images generally attributed to, or associated with an organisation, such as the iconic symbol of the five white stars and white cross on the Eureka Stockade flag” 

- Code for the Tendering and Performance of Building Work 2016 (ABCC) 

When news broke that Turnbull’s ABCC was going to rip down Eureka flags and ban workers from wearing pins, stickers, shirts and jackets with the iconic flag; the internet went into overdrive. 


Much of the response online centred on the question of how the federal government could do this in a democratic society. In short, the government can do almost whatever it likes on Australia’s building sites because of the powers given to them by our Australian parliament about a year ago. 

When Derryn Hinch and Nick Xenophon voted for the Turnbull Government’s ABCC laws in early 2017, they gave a huge amount of power to Turnbull’s new building commission. In addition to harassing construction workers and disrupting union activity, the ABCC has the job of writing and enforcing a building code that any government contractor (such as Nielsens or Multiplex) has to abide by if it wants to win any federal government work. 

Builders have to stick to Turnbull’s code on every site they operate, incuding sites where no government money is used (such as in building apartments or hotels for the super funds we own). 

While many of these large contractors don’t want to enforce the extremist Turnbull building code, they worry about the ABCC’s warnings that builders could miss out on work if they are not sufficiently strict in enforcing it. 


The five stars of the eureka flag represent the southern cross, while the white celtic cross is said to represent unity in defiance. The flag was first flown at Bakery Hill near Ballarat during the 1854 eureka rebellion, Australia’s only armed uprising and a crucial step towards democracy for the country.

The rebellion stemmed from a build-up of grievances on the gold field related to the licensing of mining permits and a lack of political representation. Although 30 miners lost their lives, their sacrifice was not in vain and Eureka-inspired reforms represented a spreading of democracy and fairness in Australia’s young colonies.