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Wednesday, 22 June 1994
Page: 1895

Senator CARR (4.18 p.m.) —I, too, express my sorrow at what has transpired—the sorry saga that has been put here this afternoon. What is sorry about it is the fact that this is not an issue that concerns high principle; it is not an issue of deep concern in respect of public policy. In my judgment, it reflects the extraordinary ignorance and hypocrisy of the Liberal Party.

  Once again, the Liberal Party has demonstrated its complete refusal to understand the fundamentals of this program and the role of the Trade Union Training Authority. The Liberal Party's understanding is so misguided that it has failed to recognise that, even under a Liberal government, policies have been pursued to support the Trade Union Training Authority. We have seen a savage shift in the thinking of the Liberal Party, which reflects its abiding hatred of workers and its complete rejection of the needs and rights of workers to effective training. We hear nothing in the complaints of the Liberal Party about the training of managers and supervisors at our universities, our institutes of technologies, CAEs or TAFE.

  We do not hear any recognition that the government spends tens of millions of dollars each year on the training of management in this society. We do not recognise that graduate schools of management turn out increasing numbers of MBAs, fully trained to deal with personnel matters and trade unions. We do not hear any talk about the industrial relations assistance given to management in its attempts to undermine the worth of workers and trade unions in this country.

  We should ask ourselves the obvious question: why is it that the Liberal Party is so keen to avoid the same rights conferred on the working people of this country? We do not hear any recognition that in 1992-93, $18 million was distributed for training in terms of reform and best practice programs. Employers received $11 million of that money, but unions received only $4 million. The joint employers and union projects amounted to $0.7 million. Others got $2.75 million. The same pattern was demonstrated in the 1993-94 estimates where we saw that $11 million was being allocated, and the overwhelming bulk of that going to management.

  We do not see any recognition of the true nature of training in this country and the benefits that it brings to our economy and our society as a whole. What we do see is a vicious attack on trade unions and on the citizens of this country yet again; and an attack on the use of this Senate—and the use of estimates committees in particular on this occasion—to undermine the credibility of people and destroy where possible the reputations of our citizens, be they officials of the ACTU or public servants. That is an appalling use of this Senate.

  We see a didactic approach being taken throughout the proceedings, we see tendentious points being made again and again, and we see the generally inane style that is adopted by the conservative senators on these matters. We hear vicious allegations of laundering of public moneys and outrageous claims made about the activities of individuals. When we look at this carefully and examine the facts, none of the allegations made have any support whatsoever. For instance, on the question of the leasing of buildings, we do not hear any recognition that the audit process has been undertaken in that matter. All we hear is the slur and innuendo being presented by the small-time suburban lawyers from the other side of this chamber. Ultimately, there is a denigration of this parliament and the processes of this Senate. What we are seeing ultimately is a desperate opposition which, quite frankly, despises the fact that it lost the election and that it cannot see any future in terms of winning an election.

  We have seen allegations made about the so-called joint venture arrangement being heavily in favour of the ACTU. When we look at the facts—not just at the capital acquisitions of this joint venture or the books and journals and so on that began the joint venture—when we look at the recurrent expenditure involved in the process we see that so far, from the Trade Union Training Authority side of the operation, $239,000 has been allocated and from the ACTU, $349,000 has been allocated. Since the ACTU's commitment is on a recurrent basis, we can see the distribution and that a disproportionate share coming from the ACTU is growing quite substantially.

  We have seen some vicious allegations levelled against Jennie George and some quite vile and contemptible claims made in the press about her. But we do not hear any of the facts, such as that Jennie George is an unpaid director of Brittvale. She holds no shares in it and has no beneficial interest in it. Brittvale was established by the ACTU simply so that it could enter into a contract with the trade union authority, as the ACTU is an unincorporated association which cannot contract in its own right. Through the whole process this has been stated quite clearly but we have slurs and innuendoes from the muckrakers and the great heroes who sit in this place or on estimates committees and use the powers of this Senate to attack their political opponents. Anybody who does not agree with Senator Abetz has to be seen as a political opponent. Anyone is fair game.

  What those opposite fail to acknowledge in this whole process is that this hot gospeller, pulpiteer approach to politics where we see union bashing writ large is an attempt to somehow try to generate the notion that one is talking about public policy. What one is talking about is the prosecution of vendettas against people in the community.Liberal senators obviously find great difficulty in recognising that trade unions have any rights in terms of the proper training of workers or their proper place in Australian society.

  We have seen allegations levelled against executive officers of TUTA; we have seen allegations levelled against Jenny Luck. Claims have been made that she was improperly re-employed after an election. It seems that the rights of a Labor candidate defeated in an election are such that she is not entitled to be re-employed, but that is a right every other citizen is able to claim.

  We have heard shocking suggestions made that somehow or other the familiar arrangement between members of TUTA and the ACTU executive should be held up. We should ask people who they are sleeping with. Essentially, that is what was done last night by the opposition. I know it is a big stunt in Tasmania to play the game of the politics of the bedroom, but it is not the sort of thing that should be done at an estimates committee. We should not be asking public servants who they are married to and what sort of relationship they have with other people, on the basis of their private lives. That is a foul abuse of this Senate and of the processes of this parliament. It is absolutely and totally contemptible that people should try to make these sorts of claims under the benefit of privilege in an attempt to try to intimidate people and abuse the rights of ordinary citizens—in this case, public servants.

  I suggest to the Senate that this obviously is a campaign run by the most degenerate elements of the Liberal Party. It has no substance whatsoever and was designed to cover up the basic fact that it has no claim to make these allegations; there is no substance to them. I hope that people who might be listening to this broadcast—I do not suppose many will be—will have understood the question: what is the evidence to support the vicious smears that have been levelled against citizens of this country? We come back to the point: where does the Liberal Party stand on these basic questions of civil liberties? It is ignorant and chooses to be ignorant. It will remain ignorant; and as a consequence it will not enjoy the confidence of the people of this country.