Monday, 25 November 2019
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Prime Minister. How can 23 million breaches of the law be a matter for the board if you're a bank, but legislation before the parliament right now says that three breaches of paperwork can get you deregistered if you're a union? How can there be corporate equivalence if unions will get three chances and banks will get 23 million?
The premise of the question is just absolutely and utterly incorrect. The question carries an assertion that somehow a union or a branch of a union would be deregistered for non-serious matters—totally and absolutely wrong. When the opposition talk about paperwork, look at what this bill is actually being targeted towards—assaulting police, five times; assault by kicking, five times; wilful trespass, seven times; resisting arrest, five times; theft; attempted theft by deception; and intent to coerce, nine times. It's paperwork! And that was just one bloke. That was just one guy. That was just John Setka. But it's all paperwork! They're like the Black Knight in Monty Python: the head gets chopped off—'It's a paper cut. It's a flesh wound.'
Yes, on direct relevance. The question asked the minister to refer to that part of the bill that deals with late lodgement, that deals with if address details are not updated quickly enough, that deals with those elements of paperwork that can result in deregistration. He's not referring to any of those.
I can understand the explanation the Manager of Opposition Business has now given, but it's far more detailed than what was in the question. The question did not go into that level of detail. It talked about equivalent—
Mr Burke interjecting—
Yes, that's true, but the minister is saying that he contests that.
Mr Speaker, the question only refers to those elements of the bill that refer to breaches of paperwork. It refers to no other elements of the bill. That's what it refers to. The minister is not being relevant to any of that.
I'm going to keep hearing the minister. The minister began his answer by saying that he felt the entire premise of the question was wrong. That was what he said first. It's not up to me to judge the factual accuracy of questions and answers. He was very specific, and I believe he's being relevant to the question. The minister has the call.
But, you know, there is one person other than members opposite who thinks that these things are just paperwork, and that is the great John Setka himself. When all of this offending was put to John Setka, he had precisely the same response as Labor members opposite.
A government member: What did he say?
He said: 'They are, some of them, just civil breaches. That's all they are, just breaches.' Paperwork! Is that like the paperwork that Cesar Melhem forgot to put in? Is that the sort of paperwork we're talking about? Members opposite no doubt will be familiar with what was found to have been inflating the membership numbers of the Victorian branch of the Australian Workers Union—on a piece of paper, apparently. But don't worry. That was just paperwork! And what happened? The union was penalised $20,000 for that paperwork breach, that tiny little matter of overinflating their membership numbers. What about the Federal Court penalising the Transport Workers Union nearly $160,000 for breaking the law requiring organisations to keep a proper register of their members? It was a case of repeated and serious breaches over 12 years. What about the apprentice who gets bullied and lied to and so intimidated he can't turn up to work because he's got the temerity to not want to join a union? What about the intimidation of a female police officer on a site by the CFMEU? That's paperwork. What about kicking off non-union apprenticeships in Victoria and New South Wales? That's paperwork! This bill is attuned to dealing with the most serious repeated offending of workplace law, what the courts have said is deplorable, abusive, threatening, appalling, disgraceful and recidivist—those are the words of the court.