House debates

Wednesday, 19 June 2013


Migration Amendment (Temporary Sponsored Visas) Bill 2013; Second Reading

12:57 pm

Photo of Don RandallDon Randall (Canning, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Local Government) Share this | Hansard source

I am very pleased to speak to the Migration Amendment (Temporary Sponsored Visas) Bill 2013, because I want to make sure that people understand that this is the most racist piece of legislation that has come to this House since I have been a member—and, I suspect, at any time. It is not only xenophobic in its nature but it is also highly jingoistic in its interpretation of our attitude towards foreign workers. This has a history. I recall some of the history that I came across some years ago. This goes back 150 years to the riots at Lambing Flat. I will read from an article in Wikipedia:

Events on the Australian goldfields in the 1850s led to hostility toward Chinese miners on the part of many Europeans, which was to affect many aspects of European-Chinese relations in Australia for the next century.

It goes on:

…   …   …

European resentment of the apparent success of the Chinese first surfaced as petty complaints:

Europeans made stereotypical claims about the Chinese. They said a whole range of things, but here is the key point. They accused them and resented them because:

… they accepted low wages and would drive down the value of labour.

As this article says:

… they became classic targets for xenophobia, and surly resentment became systematic hatred.

We have not learned anything in 150 years about our attitude to foreign workers. Imagine if we had done that during the construction of the Snowy River hydro scheme.

It is just an absolute disgrace that this has been brought here today by this party opposite in government because they are kowtowing to their union mates who put them here. It is interesting that Mr Evans, as the migration minister—as much as he should be indicted for what he did in terms of dismantling the successful solution to offshore arrivals that the Howard government had put into place and then lauded the fact that Australian property had been trashed in Nauru and Manus Island in New Guinea—would not bring this legislation to the House. Mr Bowen also did not bring this legislation into the House, because he knew that this was just beyond the pale in terms of its racial overtones. But this minister has form in this area.

You only have to go back into this minister's history to find out why he is the one who is driving this piece of legislation. I went back to his first speech, and I will read an extract from his first speech, in which he says:

I do not want to fight another election where my view on a particular race of people is sought from electors before they cast their vote.

Here he is, this migration minister, bringing race into this debate, because foreign workers are the enemy of the union movement. Why is that particular to this minister? He is born into the union movement. If you read his maiden speech, you see that he came here as a six year old, born in England of Irish heritage. They went back to Ireland, came back here and found a home in the union movement. There is nothing wrong with that—I was a union member myself, as a school teacher. It has its merits, but not when it becomes a political wing of any party.

We have on the front page of The Australian today, 'Union tail wags the Labor dog'. In that article, Troy Bramston, who is no right winger—he was an adviser to the former Rudd government—says:

Conferences decide on policy, elect party officials and determine Senate and upper house pre-selections. Unions regard spots on the party's executive bodies as theirs.

The article goes on to say:

They demand seats in parliament for their candidates. And they get them.

This power is partly informal. Joel Fitzgibbon, the convener of the NSW Labor Right in Canberra, told me last December that "trade union blocs" are able "to control individual MPs". Anybody in a position of power who challenges this—an MP, a party official, a conference delegate—will find their own position under threat.

Linda Savage, a Labor member of the Upper House of Western Australia, lost her preselection. She went public the other day in The West Australian newspaper, and in the parliament, to say that she lost the preselection because she would not join a faction. We all know that; I am just reinforcing why it is this particular minister. His brother is one of the big bosses in the CFMEU, and he is now doing the bidding—


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