House debates

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Questions without Notice

Workplace Relations

2:43 pm

Photo of Stuart HenryStuart Henry (Hasluck, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is addressed to the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations. Would the minister inform the House what laws are in place to punish employers who engage in acts of bullying and intimidation in the workplace? Is the minister aware of any acts of bullying? What steps are being taken to address these cases?

Photo of Joe HockeyJoe Hockey (North Sydney, Liberal Party, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Hasluck for the question. I note that this government has introduced laws that provide very strong protection for workers. We guarantee minimum wages, sick leave, parental leave and so on. It is also quite obviously illegal to underpay workers. In the states, in partnership with the Commonwealth, we have strong laws in relation to a range of factors, whether they be discrimination, bullying in the workplace or any other activity that may represent unlawful activity against a worker.

Nationally we have strong laws to protect workers, which the Labor Party want to rip up. We have a strong and independent Workplace Ombudsman, who the Labor Party want to sack. The reason the Labor Party, with their half-baked policy, want to rip up our workplace laws and replace them with laws that favour the union bosses, and abolish the Workplace Ombudsman and put in place only an option for workers to go to the unions is that they are doing the bidding of their union mates. That is because 70 of the Labor Party frontbench are former union officials. The Labor Party and the unions are hand in glove, with an agenda to wind back the industrial relations system to the 1970s.

Yesterday in this place I pointed out the case of Cassie Whitehill. I outlined an alarming case. Cassie claims that her employer, the Australian Services Union, engaged in bullying and discriminatory behaviour before sacking her on the last working day before Christmas. Cassie claims the Australian Services Union then asked her to sign a deed of release to stop her speaking publicly about the matter. Given that you can hardly hold back the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition from getting out there in relation to any other case, it was surprising to hear a deafening silence on the Cassie matter from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the Leader of the Opposition and our old friend Sharan Burrow. There was not a word about it.

In fact, it was reported in today’s newspapers that phone calls were made to union officials and the Labor Party, and they were not returned. That is hard to believe—a media inquiry not returned from the Labor Party! I ask myself: why would the Leader of the Opposition not take action against the employer, the Australian Services Union, and Mr Sean Kelly, who is also the President of the Labor Party in Tasmania? Why would he not take any action against this person? I found out in the Hobart Mercury today that Sean Kelly, the President of the Labor Party in Tasmania, is now trying to find Kevin Harkins a job outside politics to try and get him out of the way in Franklin and ensure that Kevin Rudd, the Leader of the Opposition, wins the seat.

There is a deafening silence from the Leader of the Opposition when it comes to Cassie, but when it comes to getting Kevin Harkins a job his mates are doing the bidding. These are serious allegations. In the Hobart Mercury today it says that Mr Harkins has been offered an elevated union position, increased salary and a future Senate seat if he steps down as the Labor candidate in Franklin. I refer the parliament to the Electoral Act, which states:

A person shall not, with the intention of influencing or affecting ... any candidature of another person ... give or confer, or promise or offer to give or confer, any property or benefit of any kind to that other person or to a third person.

This matter has been referred to the Australian Electoral Commission because it represents, potentially, a very serious offence by Mr Kelly and the Australian Labor Party. According to the Hobart Mercury they are trying to buy their way out of a problem by getting rid of Kevin Harkins in Franklin while they do not have the guts to stand up for a worker that has been sacked by the President of the Labor Party in Tasmania. This is all about Kevin Rudd’s Labor—turning your backs on an innocent young person and taking care of a union thug for a political fix.