Wednesday, 12 September 2012
Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union
That the Senate—
(a) notes that the Supreme Court of Victoria issued interim injunctions against the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) in relation to Grocon sites in Melbourne, and that contempt proceedings in relation to certain injunctions remain before the court;
(b) condemns the CFMEU's blockade of the Myer Emporium site, which involved violent attacks on police and police horses and posters issued by CFMEU bosses labelling workers as 'scabs';
(c) notes that Grocon workers, who are members of the CFMEU, have expressed disappointment at abuse, threats and intimidation by CFMEU bosses and at the CFMEU's failure to adhere to the law;
(d) affirms that violence, unlawful activity, bullying, harassment and thuggery have no place in any workplace; and
(e) calls on the Australian Labor Party and the Australian Greens to refuse to accept any further donations from the CFMEU until it desists from unlawful activity, thuggery and violence in the workplace.
The government do not support this motion. We raised an earlier version with Senator Abetz's office and proposed wording that would fix errors of fact and law. Unfortunately, the senator was too busy playing politics to get his facts straight or to achieve any consensus on this which is an important issue. We will not be party to an exercise that co-opts the Senate into Senator Abetz's political tactics and allows the Senate to act like a Star Chamber or a quasi-court. What the government proposed is as follows and reflects the clear and consistent position we have taken during the Grocon dispute. We proposed (a) that the Senate notes that the Supreme Court of Victoria issued interim injunctions against the CFMEU in relation to Grocon sites in Melbourne and contempt proceedings in relation to certain injunctions remain before the court, (b) condemns the CFMEU's blockade at the Myer Emporium site and (c) notes that violence, unlawful activity, bullying, harassment and thuggery have no place in any workplace and urges all participants in the building and construction sector to comply with the rule of law.
The Australian Greens are not able to support the motion that has been moved by Senator Abetz and the coalition. The Greens amendment would have omitted all the words after 'that the Senate' and substituted the following: (a) notes that Grocon refused to abide by a recommendation from the President of Fair Work Australia, which was accepted by the CFMEU, that would have seen the protest cease and work recommence while talks continued, (b) reaffirms the importance of independent health and safety representatives willing to stand up for the employees they represent and (c) calls on the Victorian Baillieu government to fully explain its role in the dispute. It is a shame that the amendment was not put to the chamber for a vote.
I am sure the clock will start again. There are 1.7 million reasons why the Australian Labor Party are opposing this motion and there are 30,000 reasons why the Greens are opposing this motion, because they have been the beneficiaries of donations from the CFMEU, which has been proven to have been engaged in thuggery and intimidation on worksites around Australia. So, when we have a motion to call on the Australian Labor Party and the Australian Greens to refuse to accept any further donations from the CFMEU until it desists from unlawful activity, thuggery and violence in the workplace, they cannot bring themselves to vote against such a motion because they are more interested in the money than in the rule of law. They are more interested in the union bosses than in the rights of individual workers to be able to go to and from work without the fear of intimidation from union bosses.
I cannot support this motion in the absence of Senator Madigan's amendment being put which essentially calls on all Australian political parties to refuse to accept any donations from any group, whether union or corporation, that commits any act of unlawful activity, thuggery or violence against employees or employers in the workplace. That to me seemed a much more sensible proposition, much less partisan than the opposition's, and on that basis, in the absence of Senator Madigan being able to move what I thought was a very sensible amendment, I cannot support this motion.