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Monday, 28 February 2011
Page: 691


Senator FISHER (7:51 PM) —I rise to speak on this matter of public importance and, unfortunately, express my great concern about the government’s continued and flagrant breaches of its promises—in this case, the Prime Minister’s clear and unequivocal promise not to introduce a carbon tax. In the words of the Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott, ‘This Prime Minister has never met a tax she didn’t hike.’

Australians would be forgiven for beginning to think that this Prime Minister struggles to make a promise that she does not later want to break. Why? It is pretty simple: because the government may be in government but they are not in power. They are not in power when it comes to environmental policies and climate change policies; the Greens are in power. They are in government but they are not in power when it comes to workplace relations. Senator Cameron dares to stand in here and say that his party, the government, have stood up for workers. No they have not. What a joke. The only organisation or group that the Labor government have stood up for when it comes to workplaces is the union movement. The government are in government but they ain’t in power in Australian workplaces. The union movement is in power, clear and simple.

And what about the National Broadband Network and NBN Co., a government business enterprise? What sort of scrutiny is that supposed to be subject to? Not much according to the very well-paid—although he donates some of it to charity—boss of NBN Co., Mike Quigley. He is starting to reckon that he is subject to too much scrutiny. Again, the Labor government may be in government but they are not in power when it comes to the National Broadband Network, the greatest infrastructure spend in the history of this country. No, that venture is starting to look like it is in the power of NBN Co., and its head, Mike Quigley.

Returning to the environment and the carbon tax, who was at the photo opportunity in the Prime Minister’s courtyard when the government announced its backflip on the carbon tax? Well, there were as many Greens members as there were government members. There were six people there: the Prime Minister, Minister Combet, Senator Bob Brown, Senator Milne, Mr Oakeshott and Mr Windsor. There were as many Greens as there were government members. And Senator Milne said that the creation of the climate change committee was a Greens idea and the Greens had ownership of the carbon scheme because it is ‘the one we ourselves put on the table’. So the Greens are dictating policy to the government. The government is the government but the Greens are in power and they are claiming credit, again, for a backflip and broken promise by the government.

And take a look at the Multi-Party Climate Change Committee. Senator Milne is deputy chair, Senator Bob Brown is a member and the member for Melbourne, Adam Bandt, is assisting the committee. When you add the number of Greens to the Independents, they can outvote the government on the government’s own committee. The government is not in power; the Greens are in power.

In Australia’s workplaces you do not have to look very far to see that unions are being implanted in workplaces. We only need one member at a workplace before a union is implanted at the bargaining table. There is pretty much unfettered right of entry for union officials to Australia’s workplaces, and the union movement is saying: ‘You know this genuine, good-faith bargaining; what that actually means, Prime Minister, is that, unless an employer is prepared to actually reach a collective agreement, there is no genuine bargaining. There is no good-faith bargaining.’ What is the point of trying to define good-faith bargaining when you have a union movement saying to this Prime Minister, ‘The only way you can be shown to be bargaining in good faith, Prime Minister, is if we actually manage to strong arm an employer into a collective agreement.’ Look no further than the building industry, where the CFMEU is claiming a 24 per cent wage hike over four years. They have the temerity to not even talk about productivity gains in exchange for it.

The Prime Minister kind of pretends she is staring the union movement down by hanging on to the ABCC, the Australian Building and Construction Commissioner, just for that little bit longer. But she knows she is going to bring it to an end. The union movement, and in particular the CFMEU, have been emboldened by the election of the Labor government and they will make sure that the building industry goes back to where it was before the creation of the Australian Building and Construction Commissioner—if the Prime Minister proceeds to pare back and ultimately abolish the building industry cop.

Regarding the National Broadband Network, Mr Quigley was reported in the Australian Financial Review in an extensive interview he did with that paper. He said: ‘The NBN Co. could become dysfunctional if it has to report to too many politicians and oversight committees and bureaucracies. There comes a point at which it just kind of becomes dysfunctional. Every man and his dog oversighting the place.’ Well, Mr Quigley, get used to a government business enterprise and that being transparent and accountable to the Australian people.

Regarding the carbon tax, we were not going to have one and now we are going to have one. Is petrol in or is petrol out? This government is doing a dance with the Greens and the Independents. Well, let’s do the hokey-pokey: let’s put the petrol in, let’s take the petrol out, let’s put the petrol in and let’s shake it all about—or shake the Greens about and see if we can change Christine Milne’s mind. And whilst we are at it let’s turn the Greens right around. (Time expired)