Monday, 24 November 2014
Questions without Notice
Australian Building and Construction Commission
My question is to the Minister for Employment, Senator Abetz, and relates to the proposed compulsory examination powers of a re-established Australian Building and Construction Commission. Can the minister advise the Senate of the proposed legislative safeguards for persons examined by the ABCC?
I thank Senator McKenzie for her question and recognise her longstanding interest in this issue of restoring the rule of law to our construction sites.
The proposed compulsory examination powers of a re-established Australian Building and Construction Commission are not at all novel; in fact, they already exist under Labor's own Fair Work Building Industry Inspectorate—they actually voted for them, believe it or not. That was established by the former Labor government. These sorts of powers are vested in APRA, ASIC, Centrelink, Medicare and the Australian Taxation Office.
Witnesses summonsed by the ATO have no specified privilege against self-incrimination, no specified right to legal representation and no specified right of review. Witnesses to the ABCC do. The government has included within its legislation to re-establish the ABCC protections for witnesses that far exceed those afforded to witnesses before the tax office.
Witnesses invited to assist the ABCC will be expressly entitled to legal representation. Any evidence given in an interview cannot be used against that person in proceedings. Unlike the ATO, the ABCC will be required to issue written notice at least 14 days in advance, setting out the time, place and manner in which the meeting will take place, including reimbursement of expenses.
Witnesses invited to assist the ABCC will enjoy the strongest regulatory protections available under Australian law—stronger than any other Commonwealth agency. So one wonders why the Australian Labor Party and Mr Andrews in Victoria are so implacably opposed to the reintroduction of the ABCC. (Time expired)
Senator Carr might like to listen to this: earlier this month, the national secretary of the CFMEU issued a so-called summons to a union whistleblower Brian Miller, to attend a secret meeting which took place just last week at CFMEU headquarters.
Mr Noonan issued a charge sheet which purported to charge Mr Miller with gross misbehaviour for which the union sought to expel him. But what is this gross misbehaviour alleged by Mr Noonan? I read from the charge sheet: 'On 16 October, Mr Miller appeared on the 7.30 program and he exposed the culture of coercion, corruption and criminality within the CFMEU.'
Honourable senators interjecting—
Yes I can. Under the CFMEU rules Mr Miller does no receive 14 days notice or any conduct money. The summons does not give him the right to have a lawyer present, and he does not have the right to a transcript or video recording of the interview. The interview is not subject to oversight by the Commonwealth ombudsman. All of these rights actually do apply to participants with the ABCC. The only right of appeal under the CFMEU's rules is to the union's national executive, which includes Mr Dave Noonan, who actually signed the charge sheet. So the person who made the charge will sit on the appeal along with some others, who include Brian Parker and, of course, Mick Gatto's and Daniel Andrews's very good mate: none other than John Setka. They would be the people running Victoria should they elect Mr Andrews on the weekend. (Time expired)