Wednesday, 25 March 2015
Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union
I, and also on behalf of Senators Cash and McKenzie, move:
That the Senate—
(a) notes recent reports and evidence of aggression and abuse towards women by Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) officials, including that:
(i) CFMEU organiser, Mr Luke Collier, abused a female Fair Work Building and Construction (FWBC) inspector using expletive and misogynist swear words,
(ii) CFMEU Assistant Secretary, Mr Shaun Reardon, made threatening late night phone calls to a female staff member of the building industry watchdog,
(iii) a CFMEU official spat at a female FWBC inspector when she was called out to a worksite to inspect a union blockade,
(iv) a CFMEU official made a late night phone call to a female staff member of the building industry watchdog, threatening her with gang rape, and
(v) on multiple occasions female FWBC officers have had to be moved off inspection duties because of the threats and aggression expressed towards them;
(b) condemns such behaviour directed at female FWBC inspectors;
(c) condemns CFMEU Secretary, Mr Dave Noonan, for attempting to defend Mr Collier's verbal intimidation of a female FWBC inspector and similar cases of intimidation, by saying that swearing on building sites is nothing new; and
(d) expresses its gratitude to FWBC inspectors, including the 31 female FWBC inspectors, who work to maintain the rule of law on Australia's building and construction sites.
Recently, we have heard of disturbing cases of violence, abuse and intimidation perpetrated by CFMEU officials against female Fair Work building commission inspectors, including spitting, threatening phone calls, verbal abuse and—most disturbingly—a threat of gang rape.
Each year on White Ribbon Day we stand together as representatives of our community and pledge to not remain silent and not excuse violence against women, whether it is by union officials or anyone else. I note that four male members of the Australian Greens have taken the White Ribbon pledge. Australians must therefore wonder why they refuse to support this motion.
Perhaps this explains their reasons: the CFMEU donated $145,000 to the Australian Greens last financial year. More worryingly, the CFMEU contributed $1.33 million to the ALP in 2013-14 and $13.4 million over the last 19 years. Given this evidence, their refusal to support this motion is reprehensible. I table a copy of this photograph of the four Australian Greens male members taking the White Ribbon pledge. (Time expired)
Mr President, on a point of order: if they are going to continue to throw these accusations around, I would like to see them either provide police statements, from the opposition, in relation to these accusations, on stat decs—
Labor is not a defender of criminal or thug-like behaviour, as we have made clear many times in this chamber, and in public notice. We do not tolerate intimidation or bullying. If criminal conduct has taken place, Labor condemns it. However, it is not proper for the Liberal-Nationals government to use allegations of criminal conduct to pursue a political campaign against its opponents. If there is evidence of crime it should be immediately reported to the police for investigation. Labor and the union movement are consistently supporters of White Ribbon, as can be seen. We support lawful process and do not tolerate bullying or intimidation.
This motion contains serious allegations. Violence against women is to be condemned, and anyone engaged in it should feel the full force of the law. It is disturbing that neither the employer of these women, Fair Work Building and Construction, nor the government has referred any of these matters to the police.
We note that the CFMEU has referred the serious claim of violence and sexual assault to state and federal police but that no CFMEU officials have been contacted by them so far. Some of these claims, such as those about allegedly threatening late-night phone calls, are strongly denied. The Greens firmly believe that government officials have a right to work in a safe environment, but if the government were serious about the welfare of FWBC officers it would not bring unproven allegations to the Senate in a motion and ask us to stand in judgement. Take the matter to appropriate authorities
That this has not happened raises questions about the motivation for bringing these allegations under parliamentary privilege. It seems it has more to do with the government's legislative agenda than concerns about women's safety or people's rights at work. We will not be supporting this motion.