House debates

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Questions without Notice

Registered Organisations

2:41 pm

Photo of Andrew WallaceAndrew Wallace (Fisher, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Defence, Industry, representing the Minister for Employment. Will the minister outline why registered organisations need to be regulated to ensure that employer and employee organisations always act in the best interests of their members? Who stands to benefit from these reforms? Who is standing in the way of this outcome?

2:42 pm

Photo of Christopher PyneChristopher Pyne (Sturt, Liberal Party, Leader of the House) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Fisher for this question. It is a much better question than the ones I have been receiving from the member for Sydney and the Leader of the Opposition. It goes to an issue that Australians very much care about, and that is how to make sure we have honest unions and honest union leaders.

For that reason, the government has introduced the registered organisations commission bill, has taken it to an election and won that election on a double dissolution trigger, giving us the mandate that we require for the registered organisations commission bill to be passed. The registered organisations commission bill will help to achieve honest unions and honest union leaders.

I am asked by the member for Fisher: who will benefit? It is very much in Labor's interests to clean-up the union movement. They are connected as if by an umbilical cord to the union movement, so the government is trying to assist the Labor Party to be connected to a union movement that is honest, rather than a union movement that is dishonest. We have seen the latest evidence of this recently in the appointment of Senator Kitching to the Senate by the Leader of the Opposition, over the very strenuous objections of many of his current frontbench and the Victorian Labor Party—including, as I understand it, the shadow Attorney-General.

This is actually a very serious issue for the Leader of the Opposition. We certainly had some fun talking about Senator Kitching's failure to do things like pay her parking fines, but it is a very important issue. What did the Leader of the Opposition do to satisfy himself that Senator Kitching had the qualifications necessary to sit in the Senate? And what did he do to satisfy himself that the reference by the trade union royal commission to the Commonwealth DPP for Senator Kitching impersonating six union leaders was to be dismissed, had no foundation? And what did the Leader of the Opposition do to assure himself that Senator Kitching has not perjured herself in the trade union royal commission? In the event that the Commonwealth DPP convicts Senator Kitching of the reference sent to them by the trade union royal commission, that will be proof positive that she perjured herself in the trade union royal commission.

There are six witnesses who appeared in the trade union royal commission—witnesses Lee, Govan, McCubben, Porter, Morrey and Leszcynski—who contradicted Senator Kitching. Six Labor figures from the union that she was a member of have contradicted Senator Kitching in the trade union royal commission—some in a way that would put themselves in danger. What advice did the Leader of the Opposition seek from the member for Isaacs, the shadow Attorney-General, about the qualifications of Senator Kitching and about whether it was appropriate for her to be appointed to the Senate? I think we will find that he did seek advice and that he received it. (Time expired)