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Thursday, 16 February 2012
Page: 1587

Mr BANDT (Melbourne) (10:07): by leave—I move Greens amendments (1) and (2) on sheet 1:

(1) Clause 2, page 1 (line 9) to page 2 (line 6), omit subclauses (1) and (2), substitute:

This Act commences on the day this Act receives the Royal Assent.

(2) Schedule 1, items 1 to 104, page 3 (line 4) to page 50 (line 15), omit the items, substitute:

1 The whole of the Act

Repeal the Act.

There is a problem with the rule of law in this country.

The SPEAKER: Will honourable members be quiet so that we can all hear what the honourable member for Melbourne is saying.

Mr BANDT: As many of us know, the rot really set in under the former Howard government. Under that government it became normal to treat certain groups of citizens differently, to treat certain groups as having different and lesser rights to others. We saw it in the sphere of immigration; we saw it with the terrorism laws that were rushed through and that removed the very old right to silence; we saw it with Work Choices, where the minister was able to step in and take away people's right to bargain without even a hearing—a provision that, to its shame, the Labor government has retained; and, of course, we also saw it in the separate set of regulations and legislation for workers in the building and construction industry.

There is a basic principle that should continue to apply: there should be one set of laws in this country that apply uniformly to all citizens. You should not have fewer rights in this country just because you turn up to work in a hard hat and boots than if you turn up in a suit and tie. I am a firm believer in the principle that you do not make things better and solve problems by taking away people's rights. It is a pernicious attitude that unfortunately pervades through both sides of this chamber far too often.

If industrial policemen could walk into an office or if industrial policemen could walk into a shop in this country and take a worker out and require them to go to a secret hearing where they would be forced to name names, there would be an outcry. Yet it seems that this is acceptable in the building industry. We have a unique chance to undo the damage that was done by the Howard government. It may be the only chance that comes around for a long time. We now have enough support on the crossbenches to repeal this legislation once and for all. That is what my amendments will do. If these amendments are not supported, members of this House would be well advised to remember one thing: the person in a hard hat and fluoro vest that they stand next to for a photo opportunity during an election campaign one day could be hauled off for questioning the next.

If these coercive powers and this legislation remain and if we continue with two tiers of industrial regulation in this country, where you may have fewer rights because you work in the building industry, it will be purely and simply because Labor wants it to remain that way. I commend the amendments to the House.

The SPEAKER: I thank the honourable member for Melbourne. I call the honourable member for Kennedy and then I will call the honourable the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations. Minister, you may want to listen to all the contributions before giving the government's point of view.