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Wednesday, 16 August 2017
Page: 5800


Senator ABETZ (Tasmania) (13:33): Recent revelations exposing the shadowy transfer of $100,000 of Australian Workers' Union money into the establishment of the now discredited left-wing activist organisation GetUp! require Mr Shorten, the Leader of the Australian Labor Party, to at least explain, if not apologise for, his and his union's actions. What we now know is that the AWU used $100,000 of its union members' money to help establish GetUp!. Might I add that we know these things—no thanks to Mr Shorten, no thanks to the Australian Workers Union and no thanks to GetUp!—through the result of some investigative journalism. The questions I pose are: why the secrecy? Why the obfuscation? Why the refusal to answer questions? The stench that is GetUp!, an organisation that runs grossly dishonest, deceptive and manipulative campaigns to support the ugly extreme left of Australian politics, became the beneficiary of the hard-earned dollars of workers and, unbeknownst to them, of workers' money. Workers struggling to make ends meet, workers struggling to manage the household budget, are having their union funds deployed in a manner about which they were never informed.

The Australian Workers' Union rules require disclosure. As a result, on Monday I did write to the Registered Organisations Commission inviting them to investigate this. Yesterday I got a response to indicate that that is what they were going to do. I look forward to their diligent work in this area to expose that which has not been exposed today. But I say the fact that the Australian Workers' Union rules actually require proper and full disclosure is a good and proper thing. The rules should require this. But this is not only a technical rule or something that you have to do because somehow it's in the rule book; this should be done because decency requires disclosure. Integrity requires disclosure. The long-suffering members of the Australian Workers' Union are entitled to know why their funds helped secretly bankroll and set up GetUp!, an organisation which is intent on destroying their jobs. Let's make no mistake about the campaigns GetUp! actually gets involved in. They are intent on destroying the jobs of many members of the Australian Workers' Union.

So why would an allegedly proud trade union leader like Mr Shorten secretly funnel $100,000 to the establishment of GetUp! and himself serve on the original board of GetUp!? What on earth could have been the motive for that? If he was so proud of channelling this money, why not disclose? Why not tell the workers and the public why he did this and how much was given? I think it's now been a decade of secrecy which Mr Shorten and the Australian Workers' Union have engaged in. So I pose the question: why would Mr Shorten do such a thing as secretly use his members' money to bankroll this outfit known as GetUp!? I trust it was not to assist him to get some credentials in his later parliamentary and leadership bids with the Australian Labor Party.

We do know, courtesy of the royal commission, that a building company went bankrupt but prior to its bankruptcy shovelled tens of thousands of dollars into Mr Shorten's personal campaign for the seat that he went on to contest for the Labor Party, doing a deal that was uncovered by the royal commission and which has been ventilated in a manner which shows the dishonourable way in which Mr Shorten went about getting money from a company for himself in circumstances where workers were being underpaid and the Australian Workers' Union turned a blind eye.

Of course, Mr Shorten didn't only do it there. He also did it with the Chiquita Mushrooms workers. Whenever Mr Shorten talks about penalty rates, I am sure that in the back of his mind he must be tortured, knowing that he and his union were the architects of denying penalty rates to those Chiquita Mushroom workers, who must be watching their TV screens in absolute disbelief at the duplicity and the hypocrisy of the man who now allegedly champions penalty rates, having done such a great disservice to them.

So why did Mr Shorten offload $100,000? It is a big lick of money in anybody's language, but even more so about a decade ago. If it was such a good thing to do, why wouldn't he be telling his mates in the union: 'Guess what? We are going to bankroll this outfit of GetUp! because you know what? When it gets up and running, it'll be out there destroying your job day after day. We'll be getting rid of the sorts of jobs, in coalmines and elsewhere around Australia, that you rely on. We will destroy them by bankrolling GetUp!' Possibly that mightn't have been a good message to sell to the membership. Could that be the reason that Mr Shorten didn't tell his members? Is that why the Australian Workers' Union were so intent on keeping it secret from their membership?

GetUp! is an outfit that is a blot on our democratic system. In 2007, the Australian Electoral Commission, no less, had to warn GetUp! that it was engaging in misleading and deceptive activity because it had a vote generator which, no matter what you put in and no matter what your policies were, always told you to vote Labor or Greens; it never came out to vote for the coalition. Indeed, my former colleague Andrew Robb went through it and gave the most conservative answers possible, and the dishonest GetUp! vote generator told him to vote Labor in his own electorate. This is the sort of the sort of dishonesty and the sort of manipulative manner in which GetUp! has become a blot on the Australian democratic system.

Not content with that, similar activity was engaged in in the 2010 election, in the 2013 election and, of course, again in the 2016 election, where they peddled the fantasy of there being a $57 billion cut in health. It was so gross a misrepresentation that even ABC's Fact Check had to say GetUp! was wrong. When even the ABC has to say that about GetUp! you've got to realise that something is badly, badly wrong with GetUp!.

This is the organisation Mr Shorten helped establish not only by being on the original board but by secretly bankrolling them to the tune of $100,000. I call on Mr Shorten today to stop the obfuscation and save the taxpayers a lot of money so there won't be this need for an investigation by the Registered Organisations Commission. Come clean. Tell us why you did it, how you did it, and the reasons for your nondisclosure. The Australian Workers' Union members of this country and all Australians deserve nothing less.