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Monday, 3 March 2014
Page: 1327

Building and Construction Industry

Mr MITCHELL (McEwenSecond Deputy Speaker) (14:48): My question is to the Minister for Education, representing the Minister for Employment. Will the minister update the House on support from within the labour movement to re-establish the Australian Building and Construction Commission? Can the minister tell the House what is preventing the re-establishment of the Australian Building and Construction Commission?

Ms Kate Ellis interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for Adelaide will desist or remove herself from the chamber.

Mr PYNE (SturtLeader of the House and Minister for Education) (14:48): The member for Adelaide is welcome to ask me a question if she could get one up in the tactics committee. Perhaps not after the last disaster! I am very pleased to report that support for the government's IR move to the sensible centre is coming from Labor figures who would not necessarily normally support the government. In February just passed, Paul Howes, Secretary of the Australian Workers Union, said:

Some will tell you that our industrial relations system is dragging us down.

And I won't be popular amongst my friends in the labour movement for saying this - but I agree.

And we agree with Paul Howes. But last week at the CEDA conference in Perth, a most unlikely source of support came for the coalition's position on Fair Work and on the Australian Building and Construction Commission, and that came from Martin Ferguson, the very well respected former cabinet minister in the last Gillard and Rudd governments—one of the lions of the labour movement. He said at the CEDA conference, 'The ABCC is a mechanism that holds both sides to account and which can help deliver projects on time and on budget.' He also said: 'The government has tabled some changes to the FWA to bring into effect their pre-election policy commitments. While the changes are a step in the right direction they are really quite modest.'

So we have support from Martin Ferguson, the better side of the gene pool of the Ferguson brothers in this place. But what did Brendan O'Connor, the shadow minister for workplace relations, instantly say? He told Sky News that he was very disappointed that Mr Ferguson had joined the other side. Following up his remarks about Qantas being owned by the Australian taxpayer, his response was to attack Martin Ferguson, a lion of the Labor Party. But Joel Fitzgibbon rode in to defend Martin Ferguson. He said that Martin had been sharing these views publicly and privately for a very long time.

Mr Burke: Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. It should not take a point of order before you call people to refer to others by their proper titles.

The SPEAKER: The minister will refer to people by their proper titles.

Mr PYNE: It was the member for Hunter who starkly reminded the public of the choice facing the Leader of the Opposition—either he chooses to continue with a future shackled by the trade union movement, believing that they can force the economy to fit the union movement, or he can go forward into the future with a positive plan, as enunciated by the member for Hunter, which is to understand that the union movement is not the be-all of the economy in Australia. This is very difficult for the Leader of the Opposition because, as he said, he is union first, union second and union third. He said, 'I am very proud to wear into the parliament of Australia every day my union membership card.' It is time for him to put this—are you coming up to table his card? Has he shared it with you, because you are the people's choice and he is the faction's choice? The people's choice is riding in to defend the faction's choice!

Mr Albanese: Madam Speaker, my point of order is on relevance.

The SPEAKER: The time for the answer has elapsed.