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Tuesday, 31 May 1994
Page: 976


Senator ABETZ (7.34 p.m.) —Let me commence my remarks this evening by fully endorsing and supporting the comments of my colleague Senator Calvert. As he said, the thing that stands out about the HMAS Huon issue is the fact that the Australian Labor Party members of the House of Representatives and the Senate are strangely quiet.

  My purpose in joining the adjournment debate tonight is to make further comment in relation to Senator Robert Ray's appallingly pathetic defence of Ms Wood in his answer earlier today. Indeed, Senator Ray's defence of Ms Wood is proof positive of how the ALP dances to the trade union tune. Any government, any minister worthy of the trust placed in him by the Australian people, should be demanding Ms Wood's resignation immediately. To allow her to continue is to condone conduct which can only be described as politically corrupt.

  The people of Australia may not be aware that the Trade Union Training Authority is a publicly-funded statutory authority and has an 11-member board, six of whom—a majority—are nominated by the Australian Council of Trade Unions. In other words, at all times the ACTU has a controlling majority or interest in the Trade Union Training Authority. To use the words of the Minister for Defence, Senator Robert Ray, TUTA is an `acolyte' of the ACTU but funded by the taxpayer. That, of course, is a very transparent situation.

  The relationship between the ACTU and TUTA is so close that they conspired two weeks prior to the last election to rid Clyde Cameron College of its important library facilities. This gutting of the library facilities was undertaken by Ms Wood without consultation with the library staff. She announced the decision to them on 26 February 1993. Yet she has the audacity to parade as the executive officer of an institution devoted to industrial relations training. By her own conduct TUTA has failed.

  Ms Wood, during Senate Estimates Committee B hearings, admitted that she signed the joint venture the day before the last federal election, namely 12 March 1994. The deed was such a ratty document that the solicitors who drew it up, I believe, could well be held responsible but for the fact that undoubtedly they were not given proper and detailed instructions by their clients because it was all done in such a rush. And, as a result, it was revealed that an amending deed was required to make up for the vast number of deficiencies in the original document.

  Ms Wood admitted that she told the staff about this move, without consultation, 14 days before the election and said that the move was to take place within two weeks. Why two weeks? To circumvent coalition policy which was clearly stated as selling the assets of Clyde Cameron College. She signed an agreement which allowed the ACTU to be an equal partner with TUTA in a business enterprise to which the ACTU only contributed one-sixth of the assets. The taxpayers of Australia brought in five-sixths of the assets. Any common business sense would dictate that that would not be the ground for an equal partnership. However, it does serve to show that there has been blatant political corruption.

  Part of the restructuring that TUTA has undergone in recent times has also meant the closure of all state offices except those, surprisingly, located in trade union-owned buildings. If the trade union was the beneficiary of TUTA funds for leases, those offices were retained; any others were, of course, terminated.

  It is just another example of taxpayer's money going into union coffers which, in turn, sponsor the corrupt Labor government under which this country is suffering. Indeed, during the last election, the director of Clyde Cameron College also happened to be the endorsed Labor candidate for the seat of Indi, a Ms Luck. As justice would have it, she did not win the seat. But this is what the local Border Mail said on 2 March 1993:

Ms Luck hotly denied the claim that the union movement was downgrading the college.

In anybody's language, taking the library facility away from the training college must have been a downgrading. She said that it was part of the rationalisation that meant that the books, reports and files would be placed in the Trade Union Training Authority's head office in Melbourne. That is another lie. It placed it in the ACTU headquarters, not in TUTA's head office.

  She then said that the move had been approved by the authority council. That is another lie, which was exposed at Estimates Committee B when Kate Wood acknowledged under questioning that she had not sought the approval of the executive council prior to making the decision, prior to implementing the decision, and prior to signing the deed on 12 March 1993. It was only after the election that the executive council—which has a majority of ACTU members on it—retrospectively ratified the agreement. So, once again, Ms Luck, a Labor candidate associated with the ACTU and the Trade Union Training Authority, mislead the people of Indi in the last federal election and therefore mislead the people of Australia.

  This whole situation is just part of the litany of lies the people of Australia have had to put up with from the triumvirate of TUTA, the ACTU and the ALP. I can assure the minister, Senator Ray, and Ms Wood, that they will be hearing a lot more about the political corruption that was engaged in by TUTA at Clyde Cameron College, aided and abetted by the ACTU, because for me to be silent and not pursue it would mean that I would be justifying and condoning their actions of complete deceit.