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Tuesday, 2 December 2003
Page: 23428

Mr BALDWIN (2:50 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations. Is the minister aware of any reported incidents of violence and thuggery in the union movement? What is the government doing to ensure the rule of law in the Australian work force?

Mr ANDREWS (Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service) —I thank the honourable member for Paterson for his question and can indicate to him that I am aware of a report in the Melbourne Herald Sun last Friday which is entitled `Union official bashed'. The report starts by saying:

A building union official has been flown to hospital after being viciously bashed during a key strategy meeting.

This was a meeting at the Victorian plumbing union planning day at Lorne in Victoria, which resulted in the bashing of one of the union officials and the subsequent transportation of that official to the Geelong Hospital because of the seriousness of the injuries. This comes on top of a recent incident in which a well-known union official, Mr Doug Cameron, was bashed just outside the front door of his own home and it comes shortly after a number of court cases, in both Victoria and New South Wales, where leading officials of the CFMEU were found guilty of intimidation, threatening behaviour and thuggery.

I want to say quite clearly that this thuggery and intimidation in parts of the union movement is a disgrace. The Secretary of the ACTU, Mr Greg Combet, is on record as saying recently that he has been trying to clean up this sort of intimidation and thuggery in parts of the union movement for years. Clearly he has failed, because here is yet another example of thuggery and intimidation in the union movement, coming on top of the recent bashing of Doug Cameron, this time in another union in Victoria.

This also reinforces the findings of Mr Justice Cole in his Royal Commission into the Building and Construction Industry, in which he found a culture of intimidation and thuggery practised by parts of the union movement in Australia. This government is determined to do something about it. The question for the new Leader of the Opposition is about choice—whether or not he will get behind the measures and legislation of this government to clean up the building and construction industry in Australia or continue to support a culture of thuggery, intimidation and violence in the union movement. He has a choice to do something about it; the time for talking is over. Is the Leader of the Opposition going to do something about it or is he going to reject the needs and the aspirations of ordinary Australians?