Senate debates

Tuesday, 26 August 2014


Commonwealth Ombudsman

7:13 pm

Photo of Doug CameronDoug Cameron (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Human Services) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That the Senate take note of the document.

I would like to speak on the Commonwealth Ombudsman's report for 2013-14 relating to the Fair Work (Building Industry) Act 2012. If there is one thing that I have been interested in all of my working life in Australia, it is to get fair work for Australian workers. One of the biggest challenges that workers faced was the Work Choices legislation, which contributed to the demise of the Howard government. The Howard government pushed an ideological position. We now see leaks coming out of the coalition cabinet room. I am not sure of Mr Brian Loughnane's title, but he is the equivalent of secretaries who argue the positions that should be adopted by the party, who do the research in the party. As has been publicly exposed this morning, he has advised that the coalition should stop being ideological.

Surely when the extremists are in control in the coalition party room the issue of extreme ideology dominates. Some of the extreme ideology comes from the Prime Minister down. And it is clear that the ideology that is dominating in workplace relations is the ideology to try to destroy the trade union movement, to try to destroy workers' rights to bargain collectively, to try to make it difficult for unions to operate effectively and to give more strength and more so-called flexibility to the employer to push down the wages and conditions of working people in this country.

We see this through the operation of the royal commission. Royal commissions should be used when there is a real problem. And I suppose there should be a royal commission into some of these slush funds that the coalition uses to breach the law of New South Wales, such as the Free Enterprise Foundation. The coalition channels money from New South Wales to Canberra and then the money is taken in brown paper bags from developers. The money has been given by developers—which is illegal. They channel the money to Canberra, they put it into one of the big funds in Canberra and then they channel the money back to New South Wales, and it is then an illegal operation.

Well, ICAC is on to this. ICAC is looking at the operation of the Free Enterprise Foundation and looking at what Mr Brian Loughnane's involvement was in this. We get plenty of lectures from the coalition about the rule of law in industrial relations. How about applying the same tests on industrial relations to your operations when it comes to taking money off business donors? Just comply with the law; do not do illegal things. If you actually complied with the law and did not engage in illegal activity, you may not have lost nine, I think it was, of the Liberal Party members in New South Wales. I think it will be heading for 10, and who knows where it is going to stop?

Focusing on workplace relations is one thing; lecturing the trade union movement and using a royal commission to try to destroy the trade union movement is another. It is part of the campaign, because you know you cannot run WorkChoices up again. You are too scared to run it up. You know there would be a huge pushback from the community if you tried to have WorkChoices again, so you try to destroy the trade union movement. How can anyone trust a party that lies to the Australian public, that breaches the law in New South Wales, that takes brown paper bags off property developers? If there was ever a need for a royal commission it would be the royal commission into the Bentleys and brown paper bags that the Liberal Party is involved in in New South Wales, and who knows what happens elsewhere? But we should find out. I would like to continue my remarks later. (Time expired)

Debate adjourned.