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Wednesday, 16 March 2016
Page: 2051


Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (10:15): I never thought I would see the day when I would stand up and say I agreed with Senator Day, but I certainly do agree with many of the points he has just made. I have disagreed with many of the positions Senator Day has put forward during his time as a senator, but he really has pinned down the problems that will arise out of this dirty deal between the coalition and the Greens.

Senator Day should understand that, as the old saying goes, with friends like the Liberals, he does not need enemies. He has been very friendly with the Liberals. As he indicated, he has delivered on most of the their agenda. My assessment of Senator Day was that he was probably the least independent Independent. Senator Day had many things in common with the coalition, and I do not think he would argue with me about that. He has supported many coalition policies that I have vehemently opposed, such as the 2014-15 budget bills and the bills aimed at destroying effective trade unionism in this country. But Senator Day has now been hoist on his own petard. He is now paying for supporting coalition policies that are a problem for the working class people of Australia.

I oppose the Commonwealth Electoral Amendment Bill 2016. It has been described as, and is, a dirty deal between the Greens and the coalition. It is not an appropriate response to the issues considered by the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters. The advisory report on the bill contained a dissenting report from Labor senators and members. Labor conceded that there were legitimate concerns about the laws governing the election of senators and about the outcomes of the 2013 half-Senate election. If, however, the current proposal—the one being put forward by the Greens and the Liberals—had been implemented before then, we would not have been able to stop the worst aspects of the 2014-15 budget. Pensioners would have been worse off, families would have faced a $7 co-payment for visits to the doctor and young people who could not find a job would have been left with nothing to live on for six months. That is what would have happened if the system now being proposed had been in place before the last election.

Fortunately, with the opposition of Labor, the support of the Greens in some areas, and the support of some of the Independents, we were able to stop the worst aspects of that 2014-15 budget. Young unemployed Australians, pensioners, young Australian families needing medical support, and elderly Australian needing medical support were all helped by the make-up of the Senate. Having all the Independents in the Senate certainly helped them maintain a decent standard of living and access to decent health care. But the coalition still wants to cut $80 billion out of health and education—and that will be made easier if this electoral bill is passed by the Senate.

I agree with Senator Day that this approach locks out new political entrants. It entrenches the existing parties: the Liberals, the Nationals, Labor and maybe Senator Xenophon and the Greens. It does, as Senator Day says, exhaust preferences early. If someone does not want to vote for the major parties, their preferences will be exhausted. Three million Australians will be disenfranchised under this proposal. There were other ways to deal with this that would have been much more democratic.

I have heard all of the debates and the arguments. I listened to every one of the contributions by Greens senators last night and to Senator Ludlam's contribution this morning. I have to say that the contributions were not very convincing. If we had had this system in place in the past, the Greens would not exist, because Bob Brown would never have got into parliament. The Xenophon party would not exist—the new party that is going to be running at the next election—because Nick Xenophon would not have gotten into parliament. We accept the system is not perfect, but there are proper processes and community consultation that should take place.

This is a victory of self-interest over democracy. I was appalled when the Greens had their so-called negotiations with the coalition. I was a union official for 27 years and if I—or the officials that worked for me when I was an official—had given in so easily on workers' rights and workers' wages and conditions, workers would have been worse off in this country. My union, the AMWU, led the wages campaigns and in many years we had to stand tough and take tough decisions, but we did benefit workers in this country. I know somebody who cannot negotiate when I see them. When you see how Senator Di Natale has been taken to the cleaners on this bill, how he has had his play lunch taken off him by the Liberals, you have to shake your head and wonder where we would be left if—and hopefully this never happens—the Greens ever get the balance of power in the Senate. It would be a really big problem. This is about self-interest trumping democracy. It is expediency over principle. That is the bottom line in relation to the Greens' position on this.

Senator Di Natale actually challenged Senator Wong yesterday in the Senate to debate marriage equality. He was challenging Senator Wong, saying, 'Let's have the debate.' But, when the opportunity to debate marriage equality was there, what did the Greens do? They sided with the Liberal Party and gagged Senator Wong. The government also had an opportunity yesterday to deal with the ABCC bill—a terrible bill, a bill that would diminish wages, conditions and safety in the building and construction industry. They had the opportunity to deal with the ABCC bill yesterday, but this deal between the Greens and the Liberals meant that, even when given an opportunity by Senator Ricky Muir, the Liberal Party would not debate it—they did not go there. They did not want to debate this great issue that they claim is the huge problem in the building and construction industry.

I know what the big problems are in the building and construction industry. It is not CFMEU officials breaching right of entry. That is not the biggest problem. The biggest problems in the building and construction industry are workers not being paid, workers not being able to go to work and come home safely without being injured, and workers being killed on a regular basis. They are the big problems in the building and construction industry. Yet we have a coalition that want to focus simply on these breaches of civil law and say that they are what is bringing the whole industry down. Every year, $3 billion worth of payments are not made in the building and construction industry. These are bills owed to small subcontractors—bills that small companies have put out—that are not being paid. So small businesses are going bust and small businesses are battling to survive. That has huge implications for productivity in the industry. We could have been dealing with some of those issues if we had a decent government in this country—a government that we do not have. These bills are flawed.

We have heard the Greens pontificating this morning about Labor getting out and winning the next election—'Just get policies and go out and win the next election!' It is about time the Greens actually understood who the real enemy of working class people in this country is. It is not the Labor Party. It is this mob over here who would take away rights at work, reduce pensions and attack working families by pushing up the cost of living through an increase in the GST. They are the real enemies. The Greens have no comprehension of this. All they want to do is attack the Labor Party. If you look at their rhetoric today and last night, you will see who they believe is the real enemy.

They think the Labor Party is the enemy, but we want to get decent pensions in this country, we are supporting changes for the better in health and education, and we want to tax multinational corporations and big business in this country so that there is enough money for us to have decent education and health systems, decent infrastructure and decent public transport systems. We are the party that is pushing those issues. We are the party that has over 70 policies out on those issues. We are the party that has said that capital gains tax concessions favouring speculators should be ended and that ordinary Australians and young families trying to buy a home should be on a level playing field. It should not be the overseas speculators, the big business speculators or the white shoe brigade that gives this mob money for their election campaigns that get a free run in this country. We should be looking after young families battling to get their first home. That is why we have taken a position that the capital gains tax concessions and the tax rorts that go on in housing should be changed. That is why we have said, 'You've got to level the playing field up for young families in this country.'

But the Greens, through this bill, are going to create a situation where young families will not be able to get a fair go. Negative gearing benefits go to the big end of town, to the wealthiest people in the country. They are the people that are going to benefit. What are the Greens doing?

Senator Ludlam interjecting

Senator CAMERON: Here is Senator Ludlam going, 'Yap, yap, yap.' Senator Ludlam, I heard your speech. You could not even talk for 20 minutes. You could not even contribute for 20 minutes on this bill. You could not even contribute a full round on this bill. You just waffled on about democracy. You had a chance to deal with the biggest problem with democracy in this country: the ripping-off of democracy by the Liberal Party.

They rip democracy apart. How do they do it? They do it by sitting in the front of their Bentleys with multimillionaires up in Newcastle getting $10,000 in cash. Remember that, Mr Acting Deputy President—that Liberal Party member up in Newcastle sitting in the front of a Bentley with a multimillionaire getting handed a brown paper bag with $10,000 in it? If you wanted to deal with proper democracy, if you wanted to get an electoral system that is appropriate, when you got a bit of power you would have linked electoral reform and electoral financing together. You would have done something about the rorts that go on with the Liberals, with their trust funds all over the place and getting money pushed in by the white shoe brigade, by the property developers, by the big banks and by the big farmer.

If you want to know what the Liberals think about anything or what their policies are going to be, all you have to do is go and look at who gives them the money. We know it is the big farmer, we know it is the banks, we know it is the finance sector and we know it is the white shoe brigade. All of the Liberal Party's policies are designed to support them at the expense of ordinary working families in this country. It is an absolute disgrace that the Greens are supporting the Liberal Party on so-called electoral reform without dealing with biggest rort that has ever gone on in this country—that is, the trust funds, the associated entities and the rip-offs that this mob are doing on democracy in this country.

Last night the Greens were talking about the four pillars of democracy. We did not hear about one of the big pillars of democracy—that is, how you fund elections. Senator Simms was pontificating about how brilliant the Greens are. Well, we have seen how incompetent they are when it comes to really dealing with the big issues. They did not deal with election funding. When this bill came up, they could have negotiated and said, 'We're not going to give in to you unless we get a change to election funding.' But did they do it? No, they did not. They are all about their own self-interest. They are not about democracy; they are about self-interest. The people who did fund the Greens must be looking at what is happening with this mob and saying, 'Where are they going?'

Senator Ludlam said that it was a complex question and we had to reflect the voting will of the electorate. What happens to those three million Australians who do not want to vote for Labor, do not want to vote for the Liberals, do not want to vote for The Nationals and do not want to vote for the Greens? What happens to those three million? As Senator Day indicated, they are cut out of the equation. You never get a perfect system, but this system that the Greens are supporting is far from perfect. It is a system that will ensure that the Liberals have a blocking vote in the Senate. That is what is going to happen.

Senator Ludlam interjecting

Senator CAMERON: Senator Ludlam can yap away all he likes over there. He had a chance to have a go in his contribution, and I thought he failed miserably. I thought, 'This guy has a big reputation; let's hear what he has to say.' But I thought his contribution was probably the worst out of all the Greens' contributions. It was the weakest contribution, the most intellectually deficient contribution and a contribution that did not go to the rort that was going on. We know what this is about. You can try to fluff this around with all the nonsense and all the rhetoric that you like, but this is about a political deal between the Greens and the Liberal Party to lock out Independents.

People have a go at Senator Lambie, but I would rather have Senator Lambie voting on the key issues than have the Liberals or the Greens voting on some of the issues. I do not understand Senator Lambie on some issues, but she certainly did stand up against the Liberal Party on the key issues of the 2014-15 budget. I was asked about this some time ago and I said that I would rather have in the Senate Independents that actually delivered for working-class people in this country any time against a Liberal—who will look after the white shoe brigade and look after the people who put the money in their pockets for their election campaigns and do not care about workers' rights, do not care about decent pensions, do not care about a decent health system and do not care about a decent education system as long as they are getting their getting their money from the big end of town. (Time expired)