• MBA CEO Wilhelm Harnisch quits after 26 years

    The long-standing chief executive of the Master Builders Association, Wilhelm Harnisch, has stepped down after 15 years in the position.

    Mr Harnisch's resignation comes as the Turnbull government successfully restored the Australian Building and Construction Commission and implemented a strict new building code for federal projects late last year.

    "It's always been my intention to have that [the ABCC and the code] as one of my signatory achievements and it's always been my intention to leave when that was achieved," Mr Harnisch told the The Australian Financial Review.

    He denied there was anything "untoward" in his resignation, saying that "it's been 26 years, it's time to move on".

    Mr Harnisch has been with the peak employer group since 1991 when he was employed as chief economist after working as a policy adviser and economic forecaster in the Commonwealth public service. He was later promoted to deputy CEO before taking on the top role in 2002.

    For the past ten years, Mr Harnisch has been pushing for the return of the ABCC, which he said was necessary to curb the militancy of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union and bring down construction costs.

    MBA national president Dan Perkins said "Wilhelm has been a tireless advocate for the building and construction industry and his longevity as CEO is testament to his success".

    "His hallmark as CEO has been his passion for the industry, his bi-partisan approach and highly disciplined evidence based advocacy."

    Mr Harnisch's leadership has not been without controversy, however, with some builders in Victoria recently objecting that the organisation had developed an "unhealthy closeness" to the Liberal Party at the expense of members' interests.

     

    He also departs as builders are preparing for a volatile industrial relations environment over the next year, with the CFMEU demanding additional pay increases and threatening stoppages over a sharply reduced deadline for compliance with the code.

     

    It is understood the MBA board has been searching for a new CEO since August last year, including external and internal candidates, and is set to announce a replacement in the coming weeks.

    Mr Harnish will continue as CEO until a new one is selected. He declined to comment on his future plans, saying "watch this space". 


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