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Wednesday, 15 February 2017
Page: 937


Senator ROBERTS (Queensland) (11:21): Well, what a funny world we live in, when I look across at the Greens and the ALP and I recall what they have been saying today. But first, as a servant to the people of Queensland and Australia, I must congratulate Senator Hinch for his actions late last year and for going out to listen to the people and then taking note of them. He is not pretending; he is taking note of what his constituents said in Victoria, and he has the courage to stand up for them and to stand up for small businesses. I congratulate the senator.

I was a member of the CFMEU for three years, because, after graduating from the University of Queensland with an honours degree in engineering, I decided I better go and learn something. So, rather than taking an office job as an engineer, I worked as a coalminer, mostly underground at the coalface, for three years around various parts of Australia, and I got a feel for the coalmining industry and miners themselves—salt of the earth.

Yet the CFMEU in its mining division, for political reasons, is destroying the Australian coal industry by funding organisations like GetUp! and non-government organisations, who are also funded by overseas interests, and who are trying to kill Australia's coal industry. And they have been doing this for 10 years, sabotaging the coalmining industry and killing the coalmining industry. That is the status of the CFMEU. It is a grubby political organisation hell-bent on political control, not workers.

As members of the ABCC committee yesterday, we listened to testimony from various witnesses, and when the unions came to give their case we heard very little about the transition period and very little about their case as to why we should not go from two years down to nine months. What we heard mostly about was why we should not adopt the ABCC bill. It is already adopted. This has got nothing to do with the adopting the ABCC bill. It has got everything to do with bringing the benefits of the ABCC bill in sooner rather than later—the benefits in terms of safety, income and security to taxpayers, union members and small businesses, nothing else. It is about shortening the transition from two years down to nine months, and it is a matter of whether or not some businesses, small businesses, will survive or not. That is reflecting how much intimidation and coercion they are facing. Their businesses are in jeopardy of being shut down, as Senator Hinch correctly discussed. This is also about ending the cartel, not in two years' time but nine months' time—the cartel of major businesses that is colluding with the CFMEU to control our industry, the construction industry—and it is about bringing the benefits of the ending of that cartel in more quickly for the taxpayers and for union members.

I dislike regulations. We know that. Yet the CFMEU has been so intimidating over so many years. It is controlling the construction industry and killing small businesses. We need to protect small business and the construction industry and union members and the taxpayers. We need this as soon as possible.

I thank the members of the Labor Party who have spoken this morning for the wedge. Our people, though, are not stupid. The people who support Pauline Hanson's One Nation party are voted us into this Senate because they know we will stand up and tell the truth, and that is what we do. They are not going to take any notice of the Labor Party. In fact, the Labor senators this morning have shown how distant they are from reality. It was the ALP, as Senator Hinch correctly pointed out, that brought in massive 457s under Bill Shorten's period as the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations. Bill Shorten is now the leader of the ALP in the House of Representatives.

Senator Watt—my goodness—he decries us for going out across Queensland to listen. He is welcome to stay in his Surfers Paradise penthouse. They serve their bosses—and they are the union bosses—including the CFMEU. We—Pauline Hanson's One Nation party—have shown for 20 years we are not intimidated by threats and thuggery. We also know, as Pauline Hanson has shown for 20 years, that those who smear us do so because they fear us. What have they got to fear from this lady and from me? The truth. That is the only thing they have to fear.

We have Senator Xenophon complaining about robocalls. We get threats too but we do not worry about it. We just keep doing what we have been doing. We have seen the CFMEU with its insidious reach; the tentacles going all the way through to the senior levels of this parliament. We know that parties are receiving money from the CFMEU. We know that members of the lower house are receiving money from the CFMEU. I was even been called by a member, before the ABCC bill came up, who told me not to support the ABCC bill. Then I found out he was funded by the CFMEU. The sooner this power over this parliament ends, the better it will be.

Our voters have a very, very strong moral compass and a strong work ethic. We respect that and admire that and we fight for that. That is what we are about. We say the things that need to be said and do the things that need to be done. We listen, we speak and we serve. That is why we are advocating support for this amendment, this new bill, to get the improvements due to the ABCC in sooner rather than later. We want it in in nine months. Thank you.