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Tuesday, 31 May 1994
Page: 907

Senator ABETZ —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Industrial Relations. In light of the revelations at Senate Estimates Committee B last week that the executive officer of the Trade Union Training Authority had, firstly, signed a joint venture agreement with the ACTU on behalf of TUTA, a taxpayer funded statutory authority, one day before the election in a bid to frustrate coalition policy in the event of a coalition victory; secondly, allowed at least $100,000 of library facilities to be removed from a publicly controlled authority to ACTU headquarters in Melbourne; and, thirdly, allowed the joint venture to be based on an equal partnership with the ACTU, when the ACTU provided only one-sixth of the capital input, will the minister seek the resignation of the executive officer of the Trade Union Training Authority, Kate Woods?

Senator ROBERT RAY —Anyone who witnessed Senator Abetz's bullyboy performance at Estimates Committee B, which was nothing more than a sleazy type of magistrates court appearance, would realise just how loaded that question is. One could read the evidence and find that many of the assumptions in his question are not true. As was pointed out at the estimates committee hearing, the signing on 12 March was basically irrelevant because it could just as easily have been signed on 20 March or 25 March under delegated authority. It could have been signed on any one of those days. The second part of Senator Abetz's question—

Senator Campbell —Just like transport union cars.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Listen to all the union bashers over there. There is one thing that unites that mob over there, Mr President, and that is a good dose of union bashing. They do it year in, year out. They get this great group therapy out of it. They all get excited about union bashing. What they do not realise is that they never win a single vote out of it—they never have and they never will. We can go right through their 50-year record. Once they had to give up kicking the commie can, the next thing consistent with that was union bashing.

Senator Campbell —I rise on a point of order. I refer to the standing order relating to relevance. The question related to the Trade Union Training Authority—something that you personally, Mr President, know a lot about. It has nothing to do with Robert Ray sticking up for his union bosses who drive around in Fairmonts while the union members do it hard on low incomes.

The PRESIDENT —There is no point of order.

Senator ROBERT RAY —The defence rests on those opposite being union bashers. Senator Campbell has once again demonstrated his paranoia about this. The second point I want to make in relation to the agreement between the ACTU and TUTA is that, whilst it is clear that TUTA put in a higher degree of resources than did the ACTU, two factors should be borne in mind. Firstly, if this was such a conspiracy, why did they enter into a 12-month contract when they know that any future government can run for three years? Secondly, Senator Abetz has the contract. He has read it. He knows that at the end of the contract there are provisions for the disposal of assets. He also knows that that contract has now expired. So there was no rip-off of public resources.

  Senator Abetz would now know that there was a supplementary agreement when additional resources were required. Thirdly, he would know that there is a temporary agreement through to 30 June about this particular arrangement, depending upon whether there is a future contract. If there is no future contract, the disposition of assets will be achieved in a proportional way.

Senator ABETZ —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. How does the government justify this blatant abuse of taxpayers' funds? How much money has been laundered from the taxpayer through TUTA to the ACTU and the Australian Labor Party during the life of this government?

Senator ROBERT RAY —That is another question constructed with all sorts of stupid assumptions, all sorts of false information, expecting a reasonable response from a minister representing another minister. It is time Senator Abetz grew up: he is no longer just an acolyte of Robin Gray; he is in the majors now so he had better perform. Senator Abetz will not really get on by old-fashioned union bashing—it is nothing more than that.