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Tuesday, 28 February 2012
Page: 2180


Mr KEENAN (Stirling) (17:52): That was a truly remarkable performance from the member for Throsby. When faced with the allegations that have been put to the member for Dobell on a sustained basis over many years in this place, outside of this place and in the media, the response of the member for Throsby was to come in and make some inane comments about the separations of powers and then, astonishingly, a return to Work Choices. Let us just go back and recap the reasons we are discussing the behaviour of the member for Dobell. We are discussing the behaviour of the member for Dobell because very serious allegations have been made about him misusing the funds of the union that he was the secretary of, the Health Services Union, which represents 70,000 of the most disadvantaged workers in Australia. Very serious allegations have been made that he abused credit cards issued by the union by using them to pay for electoral and personal expenses. Over $100,000 of cash advances were not accounted for. Perhaps most celebrated of all was the allegation that sexual services were paid for using those credit cards.

These allegations have been denied by the member for Dobell, but never once has he come into this chamber to defend himself from these allegations. The member for Throsby rather astonishingly said that we could not repeat these allegations outside of the chamber. I am very happy to table about 10 or 20 media interviews where all of these allegations have been made outside of the chamber. The member for Dobell has done absolutely nothing to defend himself from those allegations. What he did was take defamation action against Fairfax Press, which was publishing these allegations. He was forced to withdraw that action and incurred significant costs, which were then met by the New South Wales branch of the Labor Party. What we all know—what every single member of this House knows—is that the member for Dobell has not been able to defend himself because he is guilty of these allegations. If he was not then he would come into this House and he would defend himself against them—something he has refused to do on every given occasion, even though the Prime Minister said the he was going to be required to—

Mr Zappia: Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. In accordance with the standing orders, I find that that is a personal reflection on a member of this House and I would ask the member to withdraw.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Windsor ): Will the member withdraw?

Mr KEENAN: I am happy to withdraw, Mr Deputy Speaker. The point is, if the member for Dobell had nothing to hide in these matters he would walk into this chamber today and he would explain himself. He has been accused of very serious things. There is no better place in Australia to be able to explain yourself than as a member of the House of Representatives. You do not get a better bully pulpit than this to come in and explain your actions. By his refusal to do so I think the Australian people are entitled to draw their own conclusions about what that means.

We do have bodies that are investigating these matters: the Victorian Police and the New South Wales Police. We rightly support their independence to pursue these allegations. What does concern me though is in relation to Fair Work Australia, a body that was tasked with investigating these claims back in 2009. We are now in 2012. I think the Australian people are entitled to ask: why is it taking so long for Fair Work Australia to reach conclusions about these matters? Extraordinarily, Fair Work Australia appearing before this parliament has said that they are at a loss to explain why it has taken so long as well. Until we get that explanation, until Fair Work Australia is able to explain to the Australian people why it is taking well over three years—in fact, this investigation is now into its fourth year—to investigate these claims, then we are entitled to ask what the genesis of this institutional go-slow has been.

Why is it that Fair Work Australia cannot conclude this investigation when I think most of the Australian people would understand that it is a pretty open-and-shut case of malfeasance? If it were not then, as I said, the people who have been accused would be able to defend themselves—and they have been completely unable to do that.

What we do know is that the Fair Work Australia investigation has been ongoing since 2009. It was actually an investigation that was started by the industrial registrar in January 2009. They have repeatedly said at Fair Work Australia that this investigation was going to be concluded, yet, we find that it still remains ongoing. These are very legitimate questions raised in this motion about why it has taken Fair Work Australia so long, and I would urge them to explain to the Australian people why that is. (Time expired)