House debates

Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Questions without Notice

Trade Unions

2:25 pm

Photo of Julian SimmondsJulian Simmonds (Ryan, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Attorney-General and the Minister for Industrial Relations. Will the Attorney outline to the House how the Morrison government's stable and certain approach will help to stamp out criminality and union thuggery on building sites right across Australia? Is the Attorney aware of any alternative approaches?

Ms Kearney interjecting

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

Before I call the Attorney—that didn't last long—the member for Cooper can leave under 94(a).

The member for Cooper then left the chamber.

Photo of Christian PorterChristian Porter (Pearce, Liberal Party, Attorney-General) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for his question. As the member is well aware, the cost of union militancy, union unlawfulness and union thuggery on construction sites around Australia is both financial, to the Australian economy—it's estimated that 30 per cent of the unnecessary costs of infrastructure like schools, roads, hospitals represent the unlawful behaviour of unions on construction sites—and human. When we ask ourselves, 'Who are the people that are being lied to, bullied, intimidated and threatened?' The very sad fact is that that is a very long list. Who are the people that are the subject of this outrageous behaviour by the CFMMEU on construction sites? They are apprentices, they are small-business people, they are tradies, they are contractors, they are subcontractors, they are female police officers, they are female building site inspectors and they are work health and safety inspectors. In fact, it is essentially any worker or small-business person who turns up to a construction site and who has exercised their right not to join the CFMMEU. They are in the crosshairs of the bullying, the thuggery and the intimidation.

Last evening the government's ensuring integrity bill was debated at the second reading stage in the Senate. There were 15 speeches by Labor senators; 37,000 words. The CFMMEU was mentioned only once in 37,000 words, and in relation to the issue of safety. Sadly, it was not acknowledged by members opposite in the other place that the CFMMEU are in court next week on criminal charges for intimidating a state work health and safety inspector at a building site in Cairns. That is what they are appearing for in court next week. We did have one interesting statement, though, from the Labor senator Glenn Sterle. This is his contribution in 37,000 words that could have been devoted to protecting apprentices, contractors, tradies and small-business people. The good senator said union officials 'have to break the law'. That was his contribution to a debate on a bill meant to ensure integrity in workplaces. Is that the position of the opposition leader of the Labor Party, that union officials have to break the law? Is that the official Labor position with respect to union criminality, that union officials have to break the law? And it happens week after week after week. On multiple sites in Wollongong and Sydney last year the allegations are that CFMMEU officials spat on workers and uploaded them onto Facebook pages where they were subject to further abuse, and you do nothing about it. (Time expired)