Wednesday, 14 November 2018
I seek leave to make a personal explanation.
I appreciate the Senate providing me the opportunity to respond to the personal statement by Senator Molan where he claimed that I have misrepresented him. I do this reluctantly. I don't intend engaging in duelling personal statements with Senator Molan. But I do note, as Senator Carr said this morning, that there is a longstanding convention to advise senators if you are going to use a personal statement to attack a fellow senator. I have advised Senator Molan that I will be making this personal statement. Senator Molan ignored that convention this morning. Regardless of this, I stand by my statements in relation to Senator Molan defending Woolworths at the expense of exploited and vulnerable cleaners in Woolworths stores. Anyone who reads Hansard in its entirety, and not the selected extract that Senator Molan dealt with this morning, would understand my response and the reasons I responded the way I did. Senator Molan tried to lead evidence from the Fair Work Ombudsman that Woolworths did not benefit from the exploitation of contract cleaners in Woolworths stores. This is wrong, and the tactic failed when the Fair Work Ombudsman gave Senator Molan a lesson in worker exploitation and pyramid subcontracting.
Senator Molan then asserted that if I wrote to Woolworths in relation to the issue it would be an intimidatory move. Senator Molan then accused me of grandstanding and using moral persuasion to threaten people, meaning Woolworths, to publicly expose them. Senator Molan then tried to distance Woolworths from any obligation, moral or financial, in relation to the wage theft that had taken place, by telling Senator O'Neill that Woolworths had no obligation and it's the contractors and subcontractors who had the obligation. This is a morally bankrupt position from Senator Molan.
I want to thank Senator Molan for taking the position that he did, as it resulted in the recent Senate inquiry that exposed the incompetent and uncaring attitude of Woolworths and the fact that in government departments the finance department is using contract cleaners that have been found to have been guilty of breaches of their legal obligations to cleaners.
Finally, I want to place on record that Senator Molan, as a member of the employment and workplace relations committee, did not deem it important enough to attend one hearing on wage theft from vulnerable, predominantly migrant, workers. As I have told Senator Molan before, he should toughen up, stop bleating in the Senate chamber that he has been misrepresented when he has not been and stop being such a precious petal.
Order! Given the statements from Senator Molan and Senator Cameron, my advice from the clerk is that personal explanations are not matters that should be debated. We should keep that in mind when leave is sought to make personal explanations. But, given the circumstances of that, I didn't want to interrupt.