Senate debates

Thursday, 19 October 2006

Trade Practices Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2005

Consideration of House of Representatives Message

12:11 pm

Photo of Christine MilneChristine Milne (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

I support collective bargaining as a principle and I do not understand how, if you support a principle, you can support that principle in one set of circumstances but not in another. I have never understood the ability of Family First to say on the one hand that they support the principle of collective bargaining for small business but they do not support the principle of collective bargaining when it comes to unions. I would like an explanation on how you split principle in this matter. I would like to know where the family impact statement is; it got lost in the proceedings. We would actually like to know the nature of the deal such that the ability of the ACCC to prevent anticompetitive mergers is now reduced. That is what is happening in relation to this.

I do not want to confuse the matter by talking particularly about collective bargaining or the other measures in relation to section 46. I want to concentrate solely on schedule 1, the mergers, because that is the issue on which this was voted down last year, quite rightly. It is the issue that big business has been rubbing its hands together waiting for, it is the issue that the Treasurer is so excited about and it is the issue about which the Australian community deserves to know what it is that Family First negotiated to facilitate this change of position. That is precisely what we have got now—a complete change of position. Was it a deal on tax? What was the deal that led to this change of position? Nobody is going to convince anybody that Family First, which began its involvement in politics with a deal on preferences in exchange for attacking another political party, would not be engaged in deals right now.

We also had Family First telling people in Victoria that the Greens are anti business. That in fact is bearing false witness against the Greens because in this Senate you will find no group of people who have been stronger advocates for small business than the Greens. And we will stand here today for small business against big business in supporting the ACCC’s decision-making role and not supporting the kind of merger that will occur quickly as a result of this legislation—as has occurred with the cross-media ownership. Hopefully, the Australian community is going to start waking up and asking some questions about the role that people play.

We are coming into next year’s federal election and the community will want to rescue the Senate from a Howard government majority. Who gets the balance of power in this Senate matters. That is why deals of this kind need to be exposed. Who gets the balance of power matters, and if the government loses its majority it would love to make sure that Family First gets the balance of power in here because then deals of this kind can be facilitated without explanation to the Senate and without any explanation of principle.

I want to know the principle. I am waiting for the principle. I am waiting for an explanation as to why the principle of collective bargaining matters in one case and not in another and why last year strengthening the powers of the ACCC was so important and this year taking the decision-making role of the ACCC and making it an advisory role becomes acceptable. I want it written up in lights: Family First equals Packer equals big business. That is what people are voting for.


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