Wednesday, 31 July 2019
Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment (Ensuring Integrity) Bill 2019; Second Reading
Well, that's how you arrive at supporting a union that stands up for you and tries to deliver safety to you. I went out in the real world. I had an awful lot of money, of course, as a lot of people here would be aware. But let me move on and talk about the coalminers' union. We were forced to take the construction workers and half the painters and dockers. There were murders everywhere. These people murdered people. I squealed, just as an ordinary union member. I said, 'We don't want those people in our union,' and they said, 'Hawkie said we've got to take them; the Prime Minister Bob Hawke said we've got to take them.' And I said, 'What was his logic there?' He said, 'You mob are commies, so you can look after them properly.' So, the logic in us taking construction workers with a terrible record and history was because we were commies and we could handle them!
I've got to pay the union some credit. The situation in construction may not be good now—and I'm not going to say that it's good or bad; I might say that it may not be good—but it's a thousand times better than when we, the CFMEU, took it over. We made a hell of a lot of progress, and I'm sure that we will make a lot more progress. But you've got to understand that this is always, of its very nature, a grey area. When Theodore, for the third time, went down a mine, when they refused to go down the pit, they were told to go down or they'd be sacked. So they went down, and yet again a number of people got killed, because it was extremely dangerous. They got up, formed a union and formed a political organisation, a political wing, and they took over Queensland and governed Queensland for 50 years straight. They won every single seat—outside of the south-east corner—in every single election for 50 years.
Kevin Rudd's family were strong Labor people, because they were dairymen and they cut up all the big runs and passed all the land out to dairymen. All the cane farmers—because they took all the land off the plantation owners and gave it out. They built the sugar mills, they built the meat works and they built the dairy factories, and we love them. That's a recipe that gets you elected for 50 straight years in Queensland.
When I was going to union meetings, the comrades took over the unions and squeezed through or people just walked. Again, Kevin Rudd's family and mine were good examples. We walked out of the Labor Party and we ended up in the Country Party. That was really what happened in Queensland. Then all of the seats outside of Brisbane were being run predominantly by the then Country Party. The great historian said nothing changes in Queensland—same people, same policies, just a different label. That was fundamentally true. Kevin Rudd's family were the dominant family in the Country Party north of Brisbane, in the Sunshine Coast area—and my family—and I suppose inland North Queensland, similarly. There would be 1,000 of us out there.
Arbitration—the reason that agriculture has collapsed in Australia—our cattle numbers are down 23 per cent, our dairy herd is down around nearly 20 per cent, our sugar cane is down 16-17 per cent and wool is down 70 per cent. Let me concentrate on wool for a moment. It was the biggest export item this country had. Mr Keating, the great free marketeer, the father of free marketism in this place—the Liberals like to think they are, but they're not; it was definitely Mr Keating—picked the wool industry as the first industry to be deregulated. When Anthony introduced the minimum price scheme for wool, the price went up 300 per cent over the subsequent three years. When Keating removed the minimum price scheme, the price went down 300 per cent in the subsequent three years. Anyone that says that there was any other mechanism operating except arbitration has absolutely no understanding or knowledge of Australian history or economic history.
We sold effectively as a single-desk seller under arbitration, and we had a very powerful selling unit. We were aggressive, nationalistic sellers of our product. When that power was taken away from us, we were torn to pieces. So 70 per cent of the Australian sheep herd has gone. There you are. There's the four great industries: dairy, beef, wool and sugar—four of the five—all destroyed by this place and the abolition of arbitration.
One thing that my life—74, 75 years on this planet—has taught me is that you must have a collective operation; you must have access to arbitration or the sharks will eat you, and the sharks are not Australians anymore. We've only got little fishes. Our big corporations in Australia are really little fishes. That just means the big foreign corporations are going to eat us all if we don't have arbitration. I tell you, the farmers need arbitration infinitely more than the workers. For the entire history of Queensland, they were in the same boat.
Opposition members interjecting—
You blokes got out of the boat. It was the ALP that got out of the boat, not us. It was the ALP that got out of the boat. You're the blokes that introduced free markets and abolished arbitration. Don't think it was just the farmers that got arbitration. Keating, the father of collective bargaining in this country, undermined a lot of your bargaining power, and well you know it.
Now I might mention the Anthony family. They are a very devout Christian family, the Anthonys. The grandad came from Sicily. Then there was Jack McEwen, who was brought up by his grandparents. His parents died when he was only eight. His grandfather was a Presbyterian minister. The founder of the AWU, which was the labour movement in Australia, was a Methodist minister. So there was a very strong strain of Christianity in demands for arbitration so that we could get a fair go. In Australia this is overlaid by the fact that we have only two people to sell food products to and the people of Australia have only two people to buy food from—Woolworths and Coles. When I went to university, that was called a duopoly or an oligopoly. And I was taught that that was very, very bad indeed—that someone was going to get screwed royally.
So I call upon the people on both sides of this House to understand that farmers need arbitration, a collective will to be able to bargain—not powerfully but to have some power. The employee is the aspirational class these days. There is the bludger class and there is the aspirational class. The aspirational class cut your cane, round up your cattle and work in your meatworks. These people, the aspirational classes in Australia, need both sides of this parliament to understand that the world is a very fierce place and, unless you pull together, you are going to be eaten alive. Some people don't understand the value of pulling together. I hope people understand the necessity of arbitration. (Time expired)