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Tuesday, 4 June 2013
Page: 5042


Mr RANDALL (Canning) (12:42): I am pleased to speak on the Fair Work Amendment Bill 2013 in this place because it gives me the opportunity to raise many concerns that the coalition and the working public of Australia have with this legislation. It is passing strange that with well over a hundred pieces of legislation on the Notice Paper that this should need to be urgently dealt with in the last 11 days of this dying parliament. We know why: it is to lock in the base of the Labor Party and Prime Minister Julia Gillard in particular. We know that they need to maintain the rivers of gold that come from the unions to fund the Australian Labor Party. The coalition has a strong record of supporting workers. One of the best things you can do for a worker is to give them a job and, under us, unemployment reached its lowest point in modern political history.

I would like to place on the record that the coalition is all for stamping out workplace bullying and providing more flexibility to employers. A lot of this came about because the Cole royal commission found there was a culture of lawlessness and a lack of the rule of law in industrial and building sites in this country. We established the Australian Building and Construction Commission to deal with this, and it was very effective. However, this particular legislation seeks to expand the influence and rights of union bosses in Australian workplaces, particularly through its right-of-entry provisions. This bill states that in the absence of an agreement between an employer and union officials on where meetings with employees will take place, unions will be able to host meetings in workplace lunchrooms or crib rooms. They even charge employers the cost of travelling to and from the workplace.

I am one of the people in this place who actually knows Mick Young, the famous former Labor member of parliament, one of the last real representatives of workers in this place, who said: 'You can't come here unless you've washed your hands in Solvol.' Mick had obviously washed his hands in Solvol, and I have done the same. I have worked on building and construction sites myself and I can tell you that having union bosses enter the lunch room when you want to get away from everything, when you are not a union member, is not very tantalising. It is not a great idea. You want a bit of peace, not the harassment that comes with this right-of-entry legislation.

This is just another attempt by the Gillard government to appease, as I said, the union bosses who have kept them in power and to erode previous reforms that were implemented to curb the dominance of unions in the workplace. The changes to the right-of-entry provisions outlined in the bill will mean that the default location will be the lunch room, as I said. But, with only 13 per cent of Australian employees being members of the union, the remaining 87 per cent will face constant harassment and bullying from union officials on their own work sites.

Once again, this is a broken promise from Prime Minister Gillard. Prior to the 2007 election, the Prime Minister stated on numerous occasions that there would be no changes to the right-of-entry provisions. In a press conference in August 2007, she stated:

We will make sure that current right of entry provisions stay. We understand that entering on the premises of an employer needs to happen in an orderly way. We will keep the right of entry provisions.

She later reaffirmed this position in questioning by journalists, claiming:

I'm happy to do whatever you would like. If you'd like me to pledge to resign, sign a contract in blood, take a polygraph, bet my house on it, give you my mother as a hostage, whatever you'd like.

That is what she promised. Well, we know never to trust this Prime Minister's so-called promises. Remember the carbon tax promise: there would not be one under the government she leads. But to backflip on a promise she so readily pledged to uphold makes it obvious that it is the union heavyweights and Labor's faceless men that are running this country, not this Prime Minister and this government.

In my home state of Western Australia, we have never seen many instances of union heavyweights being arrested for trespassing on various building sites and workplaces. Notorious union thugs, including the CFMEU's former WA secretary Kevin Reynolds and the current acting CFMEU national president, Joe McDonald, have a long history of criminal behaviour associated with their union activities at work sites. Joe McDonald readily says, when he is stopped about his nefarious activities, 'But we're a militant union,' as if to say that is an excuse for misbehaving and breaking the law. Interestingly, the current workplace relations minister, Bill Shorten, went to Western Australia recently and met with the MUA, and said how attracted he was to the MUA because they were so militant. There you are: the current workplace relations minister, who is meant to see the calming of relationships between employers and employees, saying that he wants to see more militancy in the workforce. As I have said before in this place, fancy putting a union boss like Bill Shorten in charge of the ministry. It is a dog-in-the-manger approach, and that is what is happening in relation to this legislation.

Now, Joe McDonald—getting back to that great Western Australian!—and the CFMEU have racked up over $1 million in fines since 2005 from Fair Work Building & Construction in response to claims of workplace bullying. Mr McDonald has also faced criminal charges and has been arrested on numerous occasions, as well as being forced to face court and defend these charges. Last year, Fair Work Building & Construction's Leigh Jones claimed that Mr McDonald was misusing members' fees in order to settle court disputes. So not only is he abusing the workers; he is also using union people's money to pay his fines. So much for those who take money out of their own pay only to see Joe using it to get himself out of jail and to blatantly flout workplace laws. In WA alone, Mr McDonald has been banned from workplace sites for his militant behaviour, further discouraging people from joining this cause—and Mr McDonald is certainly not alone in this type of behaviour.

We know that, in 2007, former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd expelled Mr McDonald from the ALP due to his thuggish behaviour and criminal convictions. Guess what? He has just rejoined the Labor Party! As soon as Kev goes, good old Joe gets back in—and he wanted to run for the Senate, I understand. What is even more frightening for employers and employees alike is that the CFMEU has since decided to appoint Mr McDonald national president, despite his great, nefarious history.

As I said earlier, Mick Young washed his hands in Solvol—a real representative of the workers. That is what the unions were based on during the great shearing strikes of the 1900s, the belief that unions were needed to protect the rights of the workers—

Mr Champion: Protect us from you!

Mr RANDALL: and that protecting the rights of the workers was the sole conscience and arbitrary work of the unions. If they did that, they were doing their job. But when they just become a political arm of the Labor Party and, dare I say, the Orwellian dogs out there doing the work of behalf of the Labor Party, well of course you have to question whether they have forgotten about the workers that they are meant to represent. And they have. In fact, as a result of this, people have seen—

Mr Champion interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms Saffin ): Order! The honourable in the member for Wakefield will get his go in just over six minutes, so I would ask him to wait.

Mr RANDALL: We know why people like the member for Wakefield are so sensitive about an issue like this. Every member of this place has to be a member of a union to be in this place. Not only that, Linda Savage in an article here claimed: 'Dumped Labor MP blames factions'. She wanted to be a member of the Labor Party in Western Australia and, because she would not join a faction, she lost her preselection. In this article, Ms Savage said that she could not see that 'joining a faction would make her a better MP and called on party powerbrokers to explain it to the public—if they could'.

The article continued:

Although [ factions ] are not mentioned in either the constitution or the rules of the WA branch of the ALP, nearly every State Labor MP is either a member of a faction, or has been at some time .

There is a really good local state member in my electorate called Tony Booty, a Labor member. He did not get a job—

Mr Champion: I rise on a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. What has this got to do with the context of this bill?

Mr RANDALL: It has.

Mr Champion: It has no relevance to it at all.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! I will just remind the member for Canning that it is the Fair Work Amendment Bill, so it would be good to talk about that.

Mr RANDALL: That is right, and we are talking about rights of entry and having to be a member of a union, and we are talking about the fact that the unionised workforce now is down to 13 per cent in this country because people have realised that unions are not serving the workers; they are serving the interests of their political masters. This is what is happening in this case.

As we know, it took someone like Bob Hawke, an ACTU boss, to introduce a number of regulations to limit the unions' wage demands in what he called the Accord. He understood that the unparalleled increase in employees' wages could damage our economy and hurt businesses in this country. Paul Keating then expanded this. Two leviathan Labor leaders saw the problems of allowing unbridled union power and they wanted to limit it.

Today, this Prime Minister Julia Gillard, a former union lawyer herself, representing the AWU and others, is trying to return to the dark ages of union militancy and dominance by trying to appease the interests of the very people who are keeping her in power. Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd did not pursue the interests of the unions enough, which led to his knifing and dismissal as Prime Minister by the current Prime Minister along with the faceless men and the union heavyweights such as Paul Howes of the AWU. Since then, this Prime Minister has been valiantly working to restore union power, particularly as over two-thirds of her cabinet are former union secretaries. Interesting. Two-thirds have a union background as members of parliament. We have a diverse background on this side of parliament. We have got a whole range of different career options, as opposed to, as I said, two-thirds of cabinet having been union secretaries. As eloquently put in the Australian by Ross Fitzgerald in a recent article on 11 May:

The Prime Minister has repaid that support—

in other words, the support of the unions—

by backing legislation that unfairly tips the balance of workplace relations in favour of the unions and with fiscally reckless policy announcements including the use of taxpayer funds to prop up salaries of aged-care and childcare workers on condition that they join a union.

They are using taxpayers' money to do it. It is back to the old 'no ticket no start' on building sites.

This is what this legislation is about: entrenching the power of unions in terms of right of entry and other issues in this legislation. This further cements this dominance and increases the right-of-entry provisions, not only creating an unnecessary issue relating to bullying and harassment, but also causing the loss of time and wages for both the business and the staff—the workers. Remember the workers? They are meant to care about the workers on that side of the House, but they do not; it is more about themselves and their own power base.

It has also been shown that membership of the unions significantly decreases an employee's chances of re-employment. A lot of people coming back as FIFOs from the north-west in non-unionised workforces are finding it difficult to get employed in certain areas if it is a unionised workforce. These are some of the issues facing people now. For example, in the Pilbara all that militant union behaviour that was happening in the seventies and eighties had been stopped and we saw the productivity that came out of the Pilbara, where Western Australia produces more than 50 per cent of this nation's export income, but now we have both the CFMEU and the AWU wanting to head towards demarcation disputes in the Pilbara.

Part of this legislation says that businesses are going to be required to foot the bill to allow union representatives to go on site, to have this right of entry, in remote places and that the businesses will have to pay the costs—the airfares, the accommodation. Some of these sites are oil rigs or drilling platforms off the coast. It has been estimated that the cost of this right of entry could be something like $30,000, borne by the employer—and we wonder why we are one of the dearest places in the world to do business. This is, as I said, just kowtowing to their union bosses.

We have made it clear that, should we be the government after 14 September, we are going to restore the powers of the ABCC, the Australian Building and Construction Commissioner. One of the great ways of reducing those powers was to defund them, but we are going to see that they are properly funded because this will take the militancy out of the Australian workplace. You can see what is going on in Melbourne at the moment with Grocon and others. This needs to be stopped. It needs a decent cop on the beat and we are going to refund and re-empower the ABCC so that they can do their work and they can stop this thuggish behaviour that the Prime Minister, through this legislation, is trying to entrench in the Australian workforce before she exits the stage on 14 September. It is not in the interests of the Australian economy. It is not in the interests of Australian workers or businesses or our reputation. This piece of legislation is not supported because of the consequences it will bring to our country. (Time expired)