Monday, 21 November 2016
Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment Bill 2014; Second Reading
As a servant to the people of Queensland and Australia I rise with a sense of obligation to Australian workers to speak on the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment Bill 2014. The government has a mandate specifically for this bill, and the chamber must give careful and due consideration to this bill as it is central to the calling of the double dissolution election—a rare occurrence in Australian political history.
As I mentioned when the CFA legislation came before the Senate, Pauline Hanson's One Nation party travelled from the north of Queensland to rural Victoria to learn how the Australian industrial relations system was affecting the economy and how it was viewed by everyday Aussies. This bill begins a process of pulling apart the elites—and by 'elites' I mean those union bosses who lord over hardworking mums and dads who struggle to pay their union fees and who should rightly expect the best and most diligent representation by their union. This bill brings rule of law to the elites, the union bosses, who have failed to adhere to law or think they are above it. Australians always kick back when they think a group or person has too much power. The strong community support that exists for this bill is a result of the concentration and wielding of ugly power by elitist union bosses. Finally, Aussie workers can breathe easy that this law will have their back. And having Australia's back was an exact promise of Pauline Hanson at the last election.
This bill seeks to bring the regulation of unions into line with the standards required of corporations and their directors. This long overdue legislation aims to create a registered organisations commission to take over responsibility for the oversight of unions and employer organisations from the ineffectual, union dominated Fair Work Commission. A high level of accountability is a measure for which Pauline Hanson's One Nation has been calling for some time. Why is this bill central to our philosophy? Central to our assessment of legislation is the concept of ensuring that freedom wins over any proposed control mechanism. The bill sets workers free to have representation without the yoke of a union boss's theft of resources and imposes on union bosses the obligation to look after union members' fees in trust with reasonable fiduciary obligations—obligations that every other section of the community is expected to meet.
This bill is about protecting workers, standing up for workers and giving workers rights to ensure that they are not unfairly or grossly controlled by elitist union bosses. Specifically, this bill seeks to bring the regulation of unions into line with the standards required of corporations and their directors. Provisions of the bill include, firstly, increasing the obligations of union office holders to disclose conflicts of interest and, where necessary, recuse themselves from making decisions on matters in which they have an interest. Secondly, the bill's provisions include increasing the requirements for union financial transparency and disclosure, making breaches enforceable by civil action and, most importantly, creating meaningful criminal penalties for union bosses who breach their statutory duties in line with those that company directors currently already face. In order to have sufficient power to monitor and induce compliance with these provisions, this bill will also create the office of the registered organisations commissioner, whose powers, most appropriately, will be modelled on those in the Australian Securities and Investments Commission Act 2001, which also aligns them with those which govern corporations and their directors.
This bill is largely in response to the shocking corruption scandal that engulfed the Health Services Union and the recommendations of the royal commission into union corruption conducted by Commissioner John Dyson Heydon QC. Honourable senators will recall the case of disgraced former Labor PM Craig Thomson, the former national secretary of the HSU No doubt many of my colleagues will recount the stories of excess from that union. Even after overwhelming evidence of Thomson's criminality was revealed, former Labor Prime Minister Julia Gillard said in question time on 16 August 2011:
I have complete confidence in the member for Dobell. I look forward to him continuing to do that job for a very long, long, long time to come.
Some may wonder if he is still here. Then of course there was Thomson's successor at the HSU, Labor stalwart and so-called whistleblower Kathy Koukouvas Jackson, who was supposed to clean up the HSU after the Thomson scandal. These people are reprehensible; and, indeed, this bill will address their behaviour.
However, I want to turn the attention of the Senate to be leader of the Labor Party, a man who would not be Labor leader if it were not for the shady dealing he has engaged in with the union of greatest ill repute, the CFMEU. Mr Shorten's dirty dealings to gain the CFMEU's support for his tilt at Labor leadership resulted in his ardent opposition to this bill—and it stinks. This is how corrupt these elites are. The CFMEU actually funds GetUp!, an organisation which aims in cahoots with American billionaires to de-industrialise Australia—the very industries that their members belong to. They do these acts in the name of global warming without any evidence and contrary to the empirical evidence on climate. It is a completely political agenda. GetUp! agitates for a Shorten prime ministership. Follow the money and you find the corruption of the elites.
Today 'someone-else-has-to-pay-the-Bill' Shorten, the 'honourable' Labor leader, has consistently spoken against increasing penalties on union officials for breaches of law, who breach their fiduciary duties to their members. Then again, Mr Deputy President, the 'honourable' Labor leader's position is hardly surprising, given his own colourful history. As the former national secretary of the AWU between 2001 and 2007, Victorian state secretary from 1998 to 2007 and Victorian state president of the Labor Party from 2005 until 2008, the 'honourable' Labor leader was a person of great interest to the Royal Commission into union corruption.
The Royal Commission into Union Governance and Corruption heard that Mr Shorten accepted and failed to disclose large donations for himself from employers while negotiating for the union on behalf of employees—secret commissions to sell his fellow union members down the river! By any measure these behaviours do not meet fiduciary obligations to protect the people he represents and serves. No wonder Mr Shorten opposes this legislation. He would have gained the most from rorting innocent workers— innocent workers, and amongst the lowest paid in Australia. Rorting workers is the true hallmark of an elite hell bent on personal power and glory. The 'honourable' Leader of the Opposition admitted to the commission that he had failed to declare a political donation of around $40,000 from a labour hire company in the lead-up to the 2007 election campaign and that invoices regarding the payments for services were not truthful. Mr Shorten, however, claimed to have no knowledge of false invoicing, totalling more than $300,000, which had been sent to construction company Thiess John Holland—a convenient form of selective amnesia!
These 'donations' were undeclared because they were a payoff—a payoff to agree to lowering the wages and conditions of his already poorly-paid union members. No wonder he wanted them kept secret! So let's be clear: the leader of a major union and now the self-styled leader of the so-called workers party took secret commissions from employers to sell his own union members down the drain! This is the behaviour of an elite with no care for the rule of law. It is as if laws are for the peasants; accountability is for the poor; and the elites would call us the great unwashed. And now he says that we do not need a Registered Organisations Commission. Mr Deputy President, I ask you!
During cross-examination, counsel assisting Commissioner Heydon said that the 'honourable' Leader of the Opposition was being 'evasive' and 'non-responsive'—their words. 'Evasive and unresponsive'! It is hardly surprising, is it? I mean: if he was honest, he would have to admit he betrayed his fellow union members, just like Craig Thomson, Michael Williamson and Kathy Jackson. Mr Heydon QC said:
What I'm concerned about more is your credibility as a witness ... and perhaps your self-interest as a witness as well.
The commissioner did not believe him, Mr Deputy President, because he knew a lie when he heard one. On Mr Shorten's watch as AWU secretary, massive conflicts of interest and ripping off his own AWU members in crooked side deals with employers like Cleanevent were the order of the day.