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Thursday, 29 November 2012
Page: 14079

Mr SYMON (Deakin) (12:38): Last Wednesday, 21 November, I was grossly and maliciously defamed by Senator Helen Kroger, the Liberal Party's chief whip in the Senate in an adjournment speech. Senator Kroger made several false and untrue allegations in this speech which I cannot leave uncorrected on the record.

Senator Kroger stated that in 2007 I was a field officer for an organisation called Protect whilst I was a candidate for the federal electorate of Deakin. This is false. If the senator had actually done her homework she would have found from many publicly available documents that I actually worked for Protect for two years, spanning the years 2000 to 2002. Further, my role was as a compliance officer, not a field officer—again, a fact that is readily available.

Protect is an electrical industry severance fund that was established by unions and employers to provide severance, redundancy and income protection insurance benefits for workers whose employers contributed to the fund. It is still operating to this day and continues to be run jointly by both union and employer organisations.

Protect was formed by the merger of two previous funds, the employer-run Electrical Industry Severance Scheme and the union-run Incolink number 3 fund. The merger was undertaken in late 2000, and my role was to ensure that both employers and employees knew about the merger and the new fund rules and procedures. This administrative role involved an enormous amount of time ensuring that moneys from both funds were correctly allocated as receipts from employers and allocations to employees. Hundreds of employers and thousands of employees had accounts with both of the existing funds, although not necessarily with details that matched exactly. By working closely with Australian Administrative Services, who received and paid all moneys due under the Protect funds deed, over this time these details were successfully merged.

My role involved no collection of moneys nor disbursement of any moneys from the Protect fund. It was the role of Australian Administrative Services to do that and provide these details to the jointly run board of Protect that continues to be run by representatives of employer and union organisations. Debts that were owed to the fund were pursued by a company employed by the Protect board where payments had not been made when due, and it is grossly offensive that Senator Kroger accused me of being a 'bag collector' and a 'debt collector'. Not only do I find this grossly offensive, it is also untrue and the Cole Royal Commission, as referred to by Senator Kroger, did not make this or any other finding in relation to me or any of the work that I did over two years for the board of the Protect fund.

This laziness of research and the slovenly approach of Senator Kroger has defamed me without recourse, due to parliamentary privilege being attached to the speech. I will not let stand comments from this senator who with her smears, sleaze and mud has attempted to tear down my hard work, honesty and integrity by comparing me to people in New South Wales such as Eddie Obeid and Ian Macdonald—people I have never met nor had I even heard of them until I read about them recently in a newspaper. If Senator Kroger cannot read and understand publicly available documents then she should resign as a senator as the duties of the role are obviously beyond her limited capabilities.