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Thursday, 24 November 2011
Page: 9572


Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (17:50): I appreciate that response from the parliamentary secretary, but what we will be witnessing later on this evening is the Labor-Green alliance voting down this amendment to protect people from the right to silence and from self-incrimination because Labor and the Greens believe it is so important in the occupational health and safety regime. But exactly the same people—trade union leaders and bosses and so-called human rights lawyers—who have advocated for these to become criminal laws and to have the normal criminal law diluted to remove the protection from self-incrimination have frothed at the mouth and carried on about a virtually identical regime in the Australian Building and Construction Commission. They have condemned the coercive powers, saying what an outrage it is, how it is a denial of fundamental human rights and how we in a free, democratic society should not be subjected to the types of laws that were designed to stamp out thuggery, physical violence, standover tactics et cetera in workplaces all around the country. These recommendations, I might add, came not out of a ministerial council dominated by all Labor governments but out of a royal commission. It will be interesting to see how strongly this principle is upheld by the smorgasbord of ex trade union bosses that sit on the other side. If I recall correctly, the statistics are that out of the 31 Labor senators in this place 28 of them are former trade union bosses or officers. When dealing with the issue of principle and the application of criminal law, if it relates to trade union bosses it is an outrage against human rights and you will get people frothing at the mouth and opinion pieces in the paper that are morally outraged. Yet, when it is in legislation such as this, all of a sudden they take a completely different approach. It would be interesting to see if the parlia¬≠mentary secretary has, in the meantime, found out what the government's position is in relation to what is a very similar regime in two pieces of legislation.