Senate debates

Monday, 17 August 2015

Bills

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

8:22 pm

Photo of Linda ReynoldsLinda Reynolds (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

Yes. We have got Martin Ferguson. We have got Robert McClelland. We have even got Paul Howes and Ian Cambridge. They are all doyens of the labour movement and they are all saying that this is the right thing to do, and it is the right thing to do because it is the right thing to do by union members.

This bill also addresses concerns raised in the Federal Court by His Honour Justice Anthony North, who said that the penalties under the existing legislation are beneficially low to wrongdoers. That means people are not getting penalised as they should for misuse of union funds and other misbehaviour. This legislation will bring penalties in line with the Corporations Act, because we believe there is absolutely no skerrick of difference between a dodgy company director who is ripping off shareholders and a dodgy union boss who is ripping off members. Again, when you look at it that way, you think, 'How on earth is it that the people opposite, who say that they represent the workers and are there fighting for the workers' rights, cannot even give workers the same rights that shareholders have to protect them?' It is an utter, utter disgrace.

I want to absolutely stress that the only people who have anything to fear from this bill are those who are doing the wrong thing by the workers of this country. I also want to reaffirm that the government firmly believes that the vast majority of officers of registered organisations absolutely do the right thing.

This bill was previously voted down in the Senate, but the primary reasons that the opposition opposed the bill are actually issues enshrined in the legislation as it currently stands today and are in full force. Something again that is quite astounding to me is that the onerous disclosure obligations that currently exist were in fact imposed by the Leader of the Opposition when he was the minister for workplace relations, and they will be removed under this government's bill.

Having a look at this bill and having a look at some of the history to this bill, I really had to start wondering why the Leader of the Opposition and those opposite would oppose these provisions. In my short time in this place, I have come to appreciate that, the louder and more aggressive the blokes on the other side of this chamber get, the more you just know there will be something they will want to hide with all the bluff and the bluster. Interestingly, the loudest in this chamber in my time so far appear to have been ex-trade union officials—a coincidence?

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