Senate debates

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Bills

Civil Aviation Amendment (CASA Board) Bill 2014; Second Reading

1:29 pm

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (Victoria, Liberal Party, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Education) Share this | Hansard source

This session on Thursday is normally for legislation that is not controversial in nature, but I will have to take this opportunity, however, to respond to some of the comments by Senator Conroy. His profoundly inappropriate and baseless comments concerning the former member for Indi and close friend of mine Sophie Mirabella, were clearly an attempt to goad members of the government and I am not going to dignify them with a response.

His comments about the National Party and CASA, however, betray his own mindset and the way in which he and the Labor Party actually treat important government instrumentalities. When we look at the behaviour of the Labor Party, and in particular might I say, Senator Conroy, the thuggish behaviour, the slurs and slanders he clearly delivered—because he had not had his attention this morning or he had just had some jellybeans out of Senator McEwen's office and so he got a bit of a sugar hit—about the National Party were just completely disassembled there by Senator Fawcett's contribution and his great technical knowledge in this area and his involvement in the Senate inquiries.

Let us also turn to Senator Conroy's own behaviour. When he was organising the NBN, no less than a person who is a former Queensland secretary of the ALP who had to resign in disgrace from parliament, Mr Mike Kaiser, suddenly landed himself a corporate affairs gig where, apparently, a member of the Labor Party and Senator Conroy's own faction, had to be paid near $½ million to lobby Senator Conroy to create the biggest white elephant in Australian history. Senator Conroy loved to compare the NBN to the Snowy scheme, as did many of those opposite. If indeed it was anything like the Snowy scheme, we would still be building the Snowy scheme. The people of Tumut would still be waiting for dams to be finished. Senator Conroy's great white elephant, as every transparent audit since the change of government has shown, betrays his desperation to divert attention from that.

Senator Conroy's form on jobs for the boys has been excellent even by Labor standards. Remember, this is an organisation that gave its own members money. I have read out a list before in the Senate of grants that ministers of the Labor Party gave to organisations and unions affiliated to the Labor Party, sometimes their own factions, who then paid money—completely separately of course from a different pot of money—to the Labor Party in affiliation fees or donations or in campaign expenditure. If you did that in the corporate world, I think you would end up going to jail. It is effectively a case of political money laundering that the Labor Party is expert at—jobs for the boys and granting money to unions under the rubric of training. Every business in Australia of course is responsible for its own training, but not the trade union movement. We have got to give them some money and then of course they can make their hundreds of thousands of dollars of donations. That is the sort of thing that this government will stop.

Finally, I have to turn to Senator Conroy's sledging of a former member of this parliament and of the National Party. Quite frankly, all I will say is that Senator Conroy's lack of respect for institutions and respected people in Australia was shown in this place only a few weeks ago. He put on a performance that, quite frankly, embarrassed this parliament. It embarrassed me as a member of this parliament when he attacked without foundation Mr Ziggy Switkowski purely in an attempt to divert attention from his own utter, complete and now obvious-to-all failings in exercising any oversight on behalf of the taxpayer over the NBN.

Then of course there was one of the more outrageous examples I think anyone can remember in this parliament, his attack—and he has still refused to apologise—on Lieutenant General Campbell in Senate estimates hearing later that same week. That was the performance that I know most members of this parliament were, quite frankly, embarrassed by. One can always ask questions without sledging. One can always ask questions without character assassination. But what Senator Conroy did merely to divert attention from other things that day was to attack a respected person whom I have seen members of his own party walk up to and apologise to in airport lounges. But not Senator Conroy—he is too big for that. He is too big to admit that he will apologise.

But turning to the last act, his allegation regarding funding cuts. Those funding cuts were from the 2013 budget. Those funding cuts that Senator Conroy was talking about are Labor's funding cuts. Those funding changes were in the forward estimates of the budget brought down less than 12 months ago when those opposite were sitting on this side. I did not see Senator Conroy complaining at that time. He may have expressed outrage in caucus in the same way he behaved in Senate estimates committees, but I did not read about it, which was odd at that time as their caucus was a little leaky. Senator Conroy stood here. He sledged people, he sledged institutions, as he has for the last few weeks, and he did not even know what he was talking about, that these were Labor's own funding cuts.

This bill represents one of a number of initiatives being implemented by the government to strengthen the nation's independent aviation safety regulatory agency, CASA. The government will use the amendments provided for by the bill to add aviation experience to strengthen the board's operations. I appreciate the bill has bipartisan support and I thank senators for their contribution and commend the bill to the Senate.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

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