Senate debates

Monday, 17 August 2015

Bills

Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment Bill 2014 [No. 2]; Second Reading

7:42 pm

Photo of Zed SeseljaZed Seselja (ACT, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

It will help if I do not hear this chirping in my ear from Senator Conroy. It will be easier not to respond to him. Therefore, I will certainly take your advice, Acting Deputy President, and go through the chair.

But this is the kind of behaviour that the Labor Party is saying is okay. These interjections are saying: 'What about others?' Well, absolutely: what about others? If they are shown to be doing the wrong thing—I do not care who they are; I do not care if they claim to be a whistleblower or if they are a whistleblower or if they simply got caught out doing the wrong thing—there should not be just a slap on the wrist for this kind of behaviour.

I again go to the point that we rightly say—and Senator Lambie has raised it and I am sure others have raised it in debate—to corporate criminals: 'There are serious penalties.' People can lose their life savings. People invest in companies, expecting that the directors will do the right thing. We have a legal framework to make sure that you do your best. If you get it wrong, if you fall a little bit short, maybe there are some consequences. But, if you deliberately fall short, if you deliberately do the wrong thing, if you knowingly do the wrong thing, then that is when we really need to have the serious penalties, and say that that is absolutely unacceptable. We need to have confidence as a community in corporate leadership. We have those laws. At the moment they are much stronger than what applies to some of these registered organisations.

What we are saying is: let's level that playing field and let's make sure that we do have serious penalties. Whether you are ripping off the workers or ripping off the shareholders, it is the same principle. It is absolutely the same principle. We have seen this lawless attitude of some unions, whether it is with Boral and construction sites in Melbourne, with the law being effectively determined by the CFMEU. There are numerous examples of secondary boycotts, cartel behaviour, racketeering, intimidation and illegal black-banning. The CEO of Boral, Mike Kane, lashed the CFMEU as 'an organisation that openly admits it has and will continue to break the law'. He stated:

On construction sites in Melbourne the law doesn't apply, the law is determined by the CFMEU…

That simply cannot stand. We can look at all the economic costs of having a situation of lawlessness on our construction sites and in other industries but there is also the moral fabric; the rule of law actually has to mean something. We could go through all the evidence that we have heard so far about Cesar Melhem, Bill Shorten's close friend; the false invoices; the Industry 2020 slush fund; the CFMEU receiving leaked details from Cbus members; the threats and the intimidation—and here in the ACT we have heard damning evidence into some of this behaviour.

I would ask senators, as part of this debate and as they consider their vote on this issue, to simply look at what this legislation does. The claims by Senator Lambie are wrong in terms of what it does and what it does not do. And certainly you cannot claim to want to stand up against lawlessness, corruption and wrongdoing and then vote against the very measures that would ensure we have a serious legal framework to deal with those breaches. What you are effectively saying is that ripping off the workers will be treated as a lesser offence than ripping off shareholders and other members of our community. Who here who claims to stand for the workers could actually let that stand? This legislation, as part of a suite of legislation, should be supported to ensure that we have the rule of law across the board and that union officials and other representatives of registered organisations are held to account and to similar standards to what we have for leaders in the corporate world. I commend this important piece of legislation to the Senate.

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