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Tuesday, 18 March 2008
Page: 1099


Senator ABETZ (3:10 PM) —The simple fact is that these latest allegations highlight a very deep culture of corruption within the broad Labor movement. Mr Sheldon, the architect of this dishonest scam that Senator Ronaldson so eloquently highlighted and brought to the attention of this chamber, is the one and the same Mr Sheldon who I understand was caught and convicted of ballot rigging in the Liquor Trade Union in Queensland about a decade earlier. What does the Labor movement do with these people who get caught ballot rigging? They warehouse them for a while, slip them across a border somewhere and then put them back in a place somewhere. Having done their apprenticeship in ballot rigging, they then get promoted where they can scam literally millions of dollars from employers and channel it into the Labor Party coffers.

This seems to be a rite of passage within the Australian Labor movement. Indeed, Mr Sheldon’s case shows how all this is done. But do you remember what Mr Rudd, a Queenslander who undoubtedly would have known Mr Sheldon’s background in the Queensland Liquor Trade Union, said before the election? He said, in relation to the trade union rorts, that they would take ‘an absolutely hard line on this stuff’. Yes, that was before the election. Straight after the election it was, ‘Oh, I know nothing about this; we as a Labor Party don’t need to know about this; sure, my party has benefited to the tune of a couple of million dollars or more and over 15 candidates have benefited,’ and, ‘Yes, it wasn’t a proper scheme,’ and, ‘Yes, he was convicted of ballot rigging a decade earlier, but so what?’

Does all this sound familiar, especially to you, Mr Deputy President, as a Queenslander? Remember Mr Mike Kaiser MP who was caught electoral roll rigging. The then Premier Peter Beattie said, ‘We will drum this man out of the state and out of the party.’ Yes, they drummed him straight out of Queensland and into the position of chief of staff to the Labor Premier of New South Wales. This is the way the Labor Party rewards these people. They do an apprenticeship, be it on ballot rigging in Mr Sheldon’s case, be it in electoral roll rigging in Mr Kaiser’s case, and then they get the big promotion for the Labor cause. There is this culture within the Australian Labor Party and, what is more, it exists within the Prime Minister’s office itself. I recall when we were in opposition and Labor were in government pursuing somebody who rejoiced in the name of Mr David Epstein, a person who was brought before the Senate estimates committee deliberately because of misleading information that he provided in relation to the National Media Liaison Service—so-called aNiMaLS, for short. The media knew what sort of a dirt unit it was. It was written up accordingly and Mr Epstein left this place with his tail between his legs. But of course now he is rewarded as chief of staff to Mr Rudd. What we have here are three classic examples of how the Australian Labor Party rewards those people who misbehave. That is unfortunately part of the culture. I have no doubt that one of the former Transport Workers Union officials will get up and try to defend the indefensible in relation to Mr Sheldon.

Senator Hutchins shakes his head and says he will not. Every now and then I think there is a glimmer of hope for Senator Hutchins. Every now and then decency does cut through with him. On this occasion it has cut through again, and I welcome that. But the simple fact is this. The Australian Labor Party has embedded within it this culture: you do a bit of ballot rigging in Queensland and then you get promoted to a much bigger, more powerful union in New South Wales. In Mike Kaiser’s case, you do a bit of electoral roll rigging in Queensland and you then get promoted to be chief of staff to the Labor Premier of New South Wales. In Mr Epstein’s case, you undertake activities with a dirt unit known as aNiMaLs, and then, sure you get sprung, but you just have to leave for a little while and then you will be reincarnated as the chief of staff to the Labor Prime Minister.

What this shows all Australians is: do not listen to what Labor says; look at what it actually does. The fact is that they are willing to have these powerbrokers, like Mr Sheldon, not content with ballot rigging, then rigging millions of dollars, being a powerbroker within the Australian Labor Party and determining who comes into this place representing the Labor Party. He is still in place there, he is still pulling the strings, and Mr Rudd sees no problem with him there; it is not a problem for him. It is a problem for him—(Time expired)