Senate debates

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Committees

Education, Employment and Workplace Relations Legislation Committee; Reference

4:52 pm

Photo of Mary FisherMary Fisher (SA, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

Sorry—the Ship Painters and Dockers Union. Mr Wood opined:

Do the general managers—

of Fair Work Australia—

really contend that if they discovered, during the course of their investigation, the type of criminality associated with that union—namely, drug importation, tax evasion, robbery, assault and murder—they are prevented by statute from providing such information to … the state or federal police forces?

The trouble with what this government is thinking with this amendment in relation to the building industry is that the next step could well be to legislate to stop Fair Work Australia from investigating or prosecuting in the event that any illegal activity were suspected, and that would have the very consequences that Ms Gale has warned about in her letter to the government about this amendment to the building industry bill. She says:

There is potential for significant waste of tax-payers money if the regulator is forced to discontinue litigation or an investigation.

There goes a million bucks, and still counting, in terms of what Fair Work Australia has expended in investigating the HSU and associated activities. She goes on to say the amendment to the building industry bill:

… would also mean that the regulator would need to be expeditious—

well, that is a bit of a joke—

in commencing proceedings to preserve the integrity of the prosecutorial process.

Again, three years and still counting. Finally she says:

We also may have situations where undue pressure is placed on parties to settle out of court to preclude the regulator from pursuing civil remedies.

Back to the building industry. That is, of course, the most ominous signal for an industry that, prior to the establishment of the Australian Building and Construction Commission, had a reputation for thuggery and lawlessness.

Senator Abetz said that this amendment in the building industry would be licence for those with deep pockets—those with money—to buy their way out. Not only that, it will be licence for those with muscle to exert it as they have in the past and to force their way out. This is bad law. It is bad law; it is mad law. Labor senators opposite will not defend it, because they know they cannot defend it, and it is clear that they do not know what the government is thinking. The Senate committee is entitled to inquire into the bill and that particular amendment in some effort to ascertain what the government is thinking.

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