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Thursday, 16 February 2012
Page: 1587

Mr KATTER (Kennedy) (10:11): In ancient history there may have been some very serious problems in the area of building and construction. There is a saying in the law that hard cases make bad law. That most certainly would be the case with this legislation. I feel very uncomfortable about the fact that discriminatory laws mean that one group of people is treated entirely differently from others. Those of us with dirt under our fingernails and calluses on our hands—there are very few such people in this place—know that at workplaces there are extremely dangerous situations. As a worker you accept that. We had very high pay at Mt Isa but we had to work in extremely dangerous situations. Where there is weak industrial representation lives can put in serious jeopardy. I do not want to take up the time of the House explaining actual cases at Mt Isa, but I know of such cases recently and a long time ago. Building, particularly high-rise construction and tunnelling construction, is equally as dangerous as mining. That is why workers in those industries get a higher pay and why they most certainly deserve a higher pay.

I heard of a series of accidents during the construction of a tunnel in Brisbane. I was put upon to go to a big stop-work rally at the tunnel. I have said this in the House before, but I think it bears saying again: I knew that because of an accident there was a person whose life was hanging in the balance. That occurred after a series of confrontations about safety at the workplace. There had been a series of bad accidents and the workers were saying it was unsafe. Then there was a very serious accident where a person's life was in jeopardy. I went to the stop-work meeting on the principle that the situation was wrong and that laws had to be changed. You cannot intimidate trade union officials in this industry, where there is a risk of accidents, because if you do it there can be terrible outcomes.

I do not know whether trade union officials were intimidated, kept away or confronted. I do know that there was a series of confrontations over safety and that a young man was seriously injured. I went there on principle. When I got there I found out that the young man was the brother of one of my very good friends, who will be running for, and will probably become, mayor of one of the towns in my electorate. I had acted on a principle, and I found out that the principal person concerned was someone who I knew. That person subsequently died. I do not know that we have improved the situation there, but I do not want to be inhibiting our protectors any longer. There are a set of laws that apply to everyone in Australia and that set apply to those protectors. If they get a bit carried away with their job as protector and start a Wyatt Earp game, then there are laws in place to restrain that sort of behaviour. But the existing laws that remove the most fundamental rights and freedoms are excessive. The right to remain silent is respected in every single jurisdiction in the world. The only exception to it is here. I have very great pleasure in backing my colleague's proposal.