Tuesday, 4 March 2014
Fair Work Australia
That the Senate authorises the publication of the unpublished documents provided to the former Education, Employment and Workplace Relations Legislation Committee by Fair Work Australia in relation to the Fair Work Australia report, Investigation into the National Office of the Health Services Union under section 331 of the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act 2009.
I seek leave to amend general business notice of motion No. 142 standing in the name of Senator Fierravanti-Wells.
I move the motion as amended:
At the end of the motion, add:
(2) That, in taking the unusual step of ordering the publication of in camera evidence, the Senate notes:
(a) the sensitivity of much of the material has been diminished by the passage of time and the disclosure of these matters in criminal proceedings or in the Fair Work Australia report; and
(b) publication is not inconsistent with the Senate’s well-established principles on the application of the sub judice convention or with any of the usual grounds on which Senate committees would generally decline to publish evidence.
Question agreed to.
Original question, as amended, agreed to.
Honourable senators should be aware that the documents the Senate has just agreed to publish cannot be made available immediately. The documents comprise several hundred pages and need to be retrieved from secure storage. A photocopy will be made as quickly as possible and made available for inspection in the Table Office. At the same time the documents will be scanned and published on the Senate website. Although this will be done as quickly as resources allow, the process could take many hours.
The motion authorises publication of the annexures provided to the former Education, Employment and Workplace Relations Legislation Committee by Fair Work Australia in its report on the investigation into the national office of the Health Services Union. The documents comprise thousands of pages unearthed during the investigation into former Labor MP and convicted union thief, Craig Thomson.
It should be noted that these annexures were suppressed until now by the Labor Party, then in government, and the Greens, first in the committee and then in a vote in the Senate which took place on 12 September 2012. It has been reported that these documents include a memo in which Mr Thomson, probably in his own handwriting, misrepresented $770 worth of sexual services obtained from Internat Immobilaire, the business name for Boardroom Escorts, as a dinner function for which he claimed reimbursement from the HSU.
I understand the Leader of the Opposition initially intended to again oppose the release of these documents. The amendment moved by Senator Faulkner is nothing more than a fig leaf to cover the opposition's embarrassment at having suppressed these documents for so long. (Time expired)
The statement made by Senator Fierravanti-Wells about the Leader of the Opposition is not accurate. I can say to the Senate that the amendment I have moved is about good Senate and good parliamentary process. It is not about partisan, or cheap, politics. It takes account of the Senate's sub judice convention, the volume of material and the time that material has been held by the Senate. Of course it takes account of the public interest. For the record, I have absolutely no interest in protecting Craig Thomson; I never, never have. I think the approach with the amendment moved by the opposition enables good process and full transparency.
Finally, Mr Deputy President, I thank you for the transparency involved in your own statement.
Senator Fierravanti-Wells just blatantly misled the Senate in terms of the suppression of documents. The documents were not suppressed. In fact, the Senate should be informed that Senator Fierravanti-Wells had complete and total access to every one of those documents. She spent a week or so in a room going through those documents, making copies, taking notes and taking recordings. There is no way that she can get up in this place and suggest to the Senate that these documents were suppressed. They were not suppressed. They were available to every senator. For her to suggest that a decision of the entire committee was a suppression by the Labor Party is a blatant misrepresentation of the facts. She should be ashamed of herself. She should have more respect for Senate committee processes than she has just demonstrated in her ridiculous outburst. It is blatantly untrue.