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Tuesday, 14 February 2017
Page: 935

Workplace Relations

Mr ANDREWS (Menzies) (14:38): My question is to the Minister for Defence Industry representing the Minister for Employment. Would he outline how the government's commitment to industrial relations reform will help protect the pay and conditions of hardworking Australians, and what action is the government taking to ensure that union leaders act in the interests of those workers that they represent?

Mr PYNE (SturtLeader of the House and Minister for Defence Industry) (14:39): I thank the member for Menzies for his question. I know he has a very deep interest in ensuring that union leaders abide by the law and work on behalf of their workers rather than themselves.

Union leaders who receive thousands in personal benefits from employers with whom they are negotiating are clearly placing themselves in a position of conflict of interest. That is why the Heydon royal commission recommended that we should outlaw such benefits and impose a criminal sanction on those who solicit, offer, provide or receive them. So the government do intend to legislate this year in that area, and we hope that the opposition will see their way clear to supporting reform in the area of ensuring that union bosses are not in a conflict of interest position because of the thousands of dollars, potentially tens of thousands of dollars, of benefits that they receive from employers.

Let me give you an example of one of the things we would like to outlaw, Mr Speaker. Imagine if a union leader travelled with a billionaire who owned a jet, with their family, to Easter Island, Argentina and Cuba—

Mr Perrett interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for Moreton will leave under 94(a).

The member for Moreton then left the chamber.

Mr PYNE: and at the same time was negotiating with that employer's company to sign an enterprise business agreement that took away the maternity leave rights of the workers who worked for that particular business and required that all the workers' super got paid into that business's super fund?

A government member: It would never happen.

Mr PYNE: Nobody could imagine it, could they? But it might ring a bell for one person in this House. It is our old China over here, the Leader of the Opposition, because that is exactly what the Leader of the Opposition did when he was the AWU secretary: he travelled with the Pratt family, who owned Visy Industries, to Cuba, to Argentina and to Easter Island, and signed, as the National Secretary of the AWU, an agreement with Visy Industries that removed maternity leave rights and turned them into unpaid paternity leave for the workers of Visy Industries, and required the workers' super to get paid into the Pratt super fund.

We are going to make that illegal, but there is more. Amazingly, he took now Senator Kimberley Kitching and her husband, Andrew Landeryou, on that trip. You can just imagine them at the Plaza de Mayo, at the presidential palace: smoking the Cuban cigars, Ms Kitching doing her best impersonation of 'Don't cry for me Argentina' over the balcony to the rather bemused tourists below, who must have been wondering what was going on. The thing about the Labor Party and particularly this Leader of the Opposition is that the Leader of the Opposition is not unlike the Perons, pretending to be the workers' friend while actually selling them down the river. Look at what he does, never what he says.