Tuesday, 25 March 2014
Questions without Notice
Trade Union Movement
Honourable senators interjecting—
I thank Senator Bernardi for his ongoing interest in seeking to clean up fraudulent misuse of union members' funds, which I would have thought those opposite would agree with. Today we were told that the five-year-old Thomson case would be dragging out even longer with today's appeal against conviction and sentence. Members of the Health Services Union are right to feel frustrated at the time taken to deliver justice in that case.
Generally I can inform the Senate that the government are adopting a two-pronged approach to stamping out corruption in the trade union movement. Firstly, we have introduced the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment Bill. We have designed that bill to give proper transparency to prevent the kinds of frauds we have seen and witnessed with alarming regularity. Indeed, according to Mr Bolano of the HSU, this is not 'one or two bad apples'. He says: 'There is a protection racket around these people. It is symptomatic of the union movement.' So let us make no bones about it: using members' funds to run re-election slush funds is just plain wrong, as it is to spend that money on elections in other unions or for the House of Representatives let alone on more nefarious purposes.
Opposition senators interjecting—
It is no wonder that those opposite, most of whom being former trade union officials, are interjecting as they are. Their slogan for the trade union movement was 'Your rights at work'. Do you know what their real slogan is? It is 'Our rorts at work'. That is what Labor are trying to—
Senator Cameron interjecting—
Those opposite are most anxious to ensure that their rorts at work can continue. We, as a government, believe that they should not be allowed to. That is what the public thinks, that is what union members think, but regrettably Mr Shorten and the Labor Party in this place do not believe so. (Time expired)
If Senator Bernardi were to cast his gaze directly opposite in the chamber, he would find the exact reason for the delays in being able to stamp out union corruption. Labor and the Greens are opposing our Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment Bill. They have learnt nothing from the Craig Thomson affair. Clearly, they believe it is okay for union members' funds to be spent on prostitutes and living a life of luxury. Labor need to explain why one standard should apply to a company boss who is ripping off shareholders and another much lower standard should apply to a union boss ripping off members. The government's policy is simple: same crime, same time. It seems that Mr Shorten sees his role as an upmarket trade union official rather than a national leader who needs to take into account the national interest.
I can inform Senator Bernardi that there is a bevy of support, including from some of the reformed characters from the Labor Party—for example, the former Labor Attorney-General, Rob McClelland, and a current Fair Work Commission commissioner and former Secretary of the Australian Workers Union, Ian Cambridge. Paul Howes of the Australian Workers Union said about our registered organisations legislation:
I have no issue with the Coalition policy.
Mr Shorten said:
There should be zero tolerance of any criminal activity …
It is a pity he cannot bring himself to say that in this place and vote accordingly. Then we had Mr Purvinas from the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association speaking about the royal commission:
I think the union movement should embrace this royal commission …
Commissioner Cambridge said:
… I have steadfastly maintained my firm view since 1996 that a royal commission into this should occur.
The only people standing in the way are the Labor Party and the Greens in this place. (Time expired)