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Thursday, 5 March 2015
Page: 1296


Senator McKENZIE (Victoria) (12:11): Following Senator Cameron's contribution to these bills yesterday, I have had an opportunity to review the Hansard, and I just want to touch on a couple of assertions, some would say falsehoods—but I will leave that for others to decide—of some of the contributions throughout his debate. His contribution included some glaring omissions, almost to the point of misleading the Senate. In the time remaining, I can only seek to correct the record and address two of the said half-truths.

The first relates to Senator Cameron's misleading assertion—and I go to the Hansard—that the proposed ABCC compulsory powers:

… are usually reserved for criminal investigation and national security agenda.

That is just simply false. It has been made clear time and time again as we have reviewed and reviewed and reviewed this area through the education employment committee. The compliance powers being sought are actually already inherent and similar to many of those existing agencies for many, many years. The only time Senator Cameron takes issues with them is when they are actually being used on his thug mates in the CFMEU. That is the only time he is concerned.

The Australian Securities Investment Commission, the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, the ACCC and the tax office all have compulsory powers to investigate civil conduct. Even Medicare and Centrelink have compliance powers. It is misleading the Senate to suggest that these types of powers are reserved only for criminal investigations. We must not forget that the Fair Work Building and Construction inspectorate under Labor's own laws includes these powers.

What makes Senator Cameron's misleading of the Senate on the compulsory powers so much worse is that he has conveniently forgotten that there are significant safeguards to the proposed ABCC powers. There are greater safeguards for witnesses than other civil agencies, and chief amongst them is that any evidence a witness provides cannot be used against them. It is unfortunate that people in the industry, as I spoke about yesterday, are genuinely fearful of reprisal, both economic and physical, if they are seen to speak out against unlawfulness. Without these powers, the thugs who rule by force would get away with their industrial unlawfulness and bullying. Even Rod Sims from the ACCC made that comment and observation. This is why the powers are so important. Senator Cameron should stop misleading the Senate in defence of the bullies, thugs and standover merchants of the CFMEU.

I also want to go to Hansard page 94, where he touched on the power of entry by inspectors, which is another area I canvassed in my contribution yesterday. He suggested they can enter without a warrant as though it was an expansive and new power. He again, shamelessly, misleads the Senate on the powers of inspectors. The power of authorised inspectors to enter premises is exactly the same power that is provided to authorised inspectors of the Fair Work Ombudsman. It is exactly the same as to enter premises under the Fair Work Act. It is the same legal test and threshold to enter, without force, to investigate compliance with the law. So what are Senator Cameron's mates at the CFMEU afraid of—actually being held to account in a similar way as inspectors? It is the height of hypocrisy for Senator Cameron to suggest that this bill is somehow an offence to civil rights and justice for allowing an authorised officer to enter premises and for him to ignore that this is how it has been for many years and how it is currently in Labor's own Fair Work Act, for the Fair Work Ombudsman inspectors. Senator Cameron is running a pro bono defence of the thugs at the CFMEU—or it is probably not pro bono now, is it?

I just want to go to some of the areas we canvassed earlier in estimates, when again Senator Cameron was arguing the toss. I refer to a Herald Sun front page from Saturday about the bullyboys in the CFMEU. We are worried about needing a tough cop on the beat. The article said:

FWBC—

Fair Work Building and Construction—

has 72 CFMEU officials before the courts, including national secretary Dave Noonan. It has also filed court action against Victorian state secretary John Setka, president Ralph Edwards and vice-president Derek Christopher.

There is a culture of lawlessness within this organisation.

As I said yesterday, those good and true union members and organisers and Labor Party representatives of the union movement should be belling the cat on this. They should be loudly and proudly saying, 'This is unacceptable behaviour.' We do need a tough cop on the beat who is going to hold all parties within the building and construction industry to the same standards and therefore give confidence to workers and employers alike that we can get on with building the infrastructure that our great nation needs and that our businesses need that is not going to be subject to overrun and action which causes disruption to businesses which ultimately ends up in workers losing their jobs. We want workers to be employed. We want them to be able to enter workplaces safely. We want inspectors to be able to enter workplaces safety. We look forward to the Greens, who champion workers' safety, and the Labor Party, indeed, supporting us to bring in tougher measures to ensure equity throughout the building and construction industry and safety for all workers.