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Thursday, 21 June 2018
Page: 87


Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (18:08): I'd like to take note of government document No. 20, the Australian Building and Construction Commission's Performance of the functions and the exercise of powers of the Australian Building and Construction Commissioner: quarterly report for the period 1 October to 31 December 2017. I just want to turn to the situation in the Australian Building and Construction Commission. This is one of the worst organisations to have ever been established by a government in this country. It's an organisation that is designed to attack the trade union movement and diminish unions' capacity to properly service and represent their membership in the industry. It is a political tool of the government, and it's a political tool that was used against the union movement by Senator Michaelia Cash when she was the minister responsible.

Senator Michaelia Cash needs to be honest with the Australian public. Senator Michaelia Cash should stop expending public money to defend her position and hide her involvement in the raids on the AWU offices. Hundreds of thousands of dollars has been expended by the minister and the Registered Organisations Commission on attacks on the trade union movement, and that is unacceptable. All this minister needs to do is be honest and open with the Australian public. All this minister needs to do is stand up in the Senate and answer the questions that she's been asked. All Minister Cash needs to do is stand up in the estimates committee hearings and, again, be honest with the Australian people. But this minister is incapable of being honest with the Australian people. She has set this network of influence in so-called independent organisations such as the Fair Work Ombudsman, the Registered Organisations Commission and the ABCC, using her influence and the influence of the Liberal Party to attack the trade union movement and her political opponents. The sooner these organisations go, the better. The sooner this minister resigns, the better.

This is a minister who has got no concept of ministerial responsibility or of what she needs to do as a minister. She has simply been caught out doing what she should not be doing—that is, interfering in the operation of so-called independent bodies. This is a minister who denied five times that her office had any involvement in the leak to the press of an Australian Federal Police raid on the AWU offices in Sydney and in Melbourne, and it was a humiliating exercise when she had to come back in to concede that her office was involved. She continues to refuse to indicate whether she has been interviewed by the Australian Federal Police. She continues to refuse to take responsibility for what has happened. It's the worst example of ministerial responsibility I have ever seen in this place, and there have been lots of problems on the other side of this chamber.

This is a minister who does not deserve to be sitting on the frontbench in this place. She should resign because she is not accepting what she should do—that is, show honesty towards the Australian people and the Senate. This is a minister who comes in here and uses parliamentary privilege to attack union organisers and the trade union movement, and uses all of her capacity as a minister to attack them unmercifully. Yet, when she is in a position where she should be accepting ministerial responsibility, she refuses to do it. Hundreds of thousands in taxpayers' money is spent attacking the trade union movement and working people in this country, and it's all designed to diminish workers' capacity to get a decent rate of pay and conditions in the building industry. The minister's position is that she would like to see workers earn less. It's an absolute disgrace that this coalition government comes in here talking about tax and helping the working people in this country. They have no concept of what working people in this country need in terms of decent wages and decent conditions. If they did, they wouldn't be misusing these independent bodies. (Time expired)

I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.