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Tuesday, 25 November 2003
Page: 22715

Mr BARRESI (2:56 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations. Minister, considering that the labour movement has been unable to tackle the problem of union thuggery, would the minister inform the House what the Australian government is doing to stamp out violence and create safer workplaces? Is the minister aware of any obstacles to improving safety for workers?

Mr ANDREWS (Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service) —I thank the member for Deakin for his question about union thuggery, of which the most recent and deplorable example was the attack last week on the National Secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, Mr Doug Cameron. I note that after that attack, the Secretary of the ACTU, Greg Combet, said that he had been trying to get rid of thuggery in the union movement for years. Regrettably, this has shown that the ACTU and the union movement are unable to clean up their own backyard. In his recommendations and report on the royal commission into the building industry, Justice Cole indicated many examples of a culture of lawlessness in that industry, including chronic disregard of legally binding agreements and a culture of coercion and intimidation.

Mr Bevis —Do you know who did it?

Mr ANDREWS —I presume the member for Brisbane is not defending this. Recently, we have seen instances where union officials in three different courts have been guilty of thuggery, intimidation, threats and other poor conduct in this regard. That is why, as honourable members know, the response of the government to the royal commission is well known. It includes measures to clean up these inappropriate practices and measures to improve safety. Can I say to the House that, if we have come to the stage in Australia where a leading union official cannot walk outside his front door without being bashed, the time for talking is over and the time for action is now. It is time the ALP got behind the measures of this government to clean up the building and construction industry.