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Thursday, 22 November 2012
Page: 9572


Senator RONALDSON (Victoria) (17:00): I am sure my good friend Senator McEwen was not calling me some of those appalling names! But I will say this: I find it highly amusing that Senator McEwen has invoked the roots of the Labor Party to talk about Australian shearers. There would not be one senator or one House of Representatives member who would know a shearer if they fell over one! There would not be one member of the Labor Party in either house, quite frankly, who knew what grease remover for hands was. You would probably know what hand moisturiser was, but you would not know what grease remover for hands was. There is no-one in this place with any understanding of Australian workers anymore; you are completely unrepresentative of Australian workers.

Nothing was better evidence of that, quite frankly, than a recent notice of motion put forward by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Senator Abetz, in relation to Mr Craig Thomson. I will just read it, out of interest, so that everyone is acutely aware of it:

The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Abetz), pursuant to notice of motion not objected to as a formal motion, moved general business notice of motion no. 804—That the Senate—

(a) notes findings by Fair Work Australia that Mr Craig Thomson misused Health Services Union members' funds for sexual services, personal travel and entertainment and to secure a seat in the Federal Parliament; and

(b) condemns the misuse of union members' funds as found by Fair Work Australia.

You would have thought that a party that was protecting workers would have supported that, particularly in relation to the misuse of union members' funds. Oh, no. Where was Senator McEwen when it came to this? Where were the rest of the Labor senators when it came to this? Where were their partners in crime, the Greens, when it came to this? They voted against it. They voted against a motion which condemned the misuse of union funds—the funds of the very same people they pretend to represent in this place.

Everyone knows that three-quarters of Labor senators are ex union bosses. That is a fact. It is an undeniable fact. Put that on the back of the motion today for the Senate to note:

… the challenges for good government posed by the culture of the Australian Labor Party and its special relationship with affiliated trade unions.

Then put that in some context: look at what they have actually done in the last 12 months—look at what they have done in relation to the misuse of union funds. So how are you protecting the workers? As I say, you would not know a shearer if you fell over one. You no longer represent Australian workers. The roots of the Australian Labor Party were torn up and thrown out years ago. You could not even find your way to Creswick, most of you people. You have absolutely no idea. You do not represent workers. You have not represented workers for a long, long time.

I found the discussion today about the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister very, very interesting. Isn't it remarkable? What we saw today was that you are happy to throw the mud, but when legitimate questions are posed—and we noticed the arrival of Ralph Blewitt in the country the day before yesterday—about the behaviour of the Prime Minister of this country, all of a sudden it is mud-slinging.

But I want to take you back, as I mentioned the other day, to the genesis of the quite remarkable, dirty and vile attack on the Leader of the Opposition. I just want to, again, refer to Mr John McTernan, who, of course, was an adviser to the British Labour Prime Minister, Tony Blair. I just want those on the other side to listen to these comments. As I said the other day in this place, they were in an article by Mr Chris Kenny in the Weekend Australian and I just want those opposite to listen as I quote from that article:

In a column for Britain's Daily Telegraph in 2010, McTernan declared: "The Coalition has a problem with women."

Now where have we heard that before? Where did we hear that in the last month? Well, of course, we heard it coming from the Prime Minister and a large number of government ministers, and this was on the back of the McTernan tactics—the great mud-slinger of the Western world. And this article goes on:

He argued spending cuts proposed by the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Coalition in Britain were unpopular with female voters. "This gender gap is a real and pressing problem for (British PM David) Cameron," he wrote.

Last year another column on law and order issues was headed: "How many women today feel the Coalition—

this is the British coalition—

is protecting them?" And just in case you missed the angle, a few months later McTernan focused on women promoted in British Labour's reshuffle, turning it against Cameron: "The PM has a problem with women and he knows it."

Straight out of the McTernan manual was the attack on the Leader of the Opposition a month and a half ago—straight out of the McTernan manual for dirt and grubbiness and personal attacks. This man was brought into this position by the Prime Minister of this country to achieve what he has achieved in relation to an abuse of that office and indeed an abuse of her as a Prime Minister and an abuse of proper process. You on the other side should be hanging your heads in shame, because you know exactly why he is in this country. You know he is in this country to denigrate the Leader of the Opposition and senior coalition members, and you sit there mute when you know exactly what has been done. There are some decent people on the other side who surely cannot countenance this sort of behaviour, and you should be standing up and saying you are not prepared to do it.

I will get back to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister can run but she cannot hide in relation to the slush fund affair. There have been some quite legitimate questions posed by some in the Australian media. As I said the other day, the conga line of apologists will never pursue it, but there are those in the gallery—this gallery and other galleries—who have the intestinal fortitude to pursue these matters, and they have put on notice quite legitimate questions that this Prime Minister must answer. And she refuses to do so. If she has a realistic and real answer to those questions, then good; that will be the end of the matter. But you do not have a press conference for an hour on the back of one misplaced word—'trust' instead of 'slush'—without any warning at all about what the matter would involve and then walk away, refuse to say anything more and then hang your shingle on the back of that hour-long press conference based on the back of one misused word: 'trust' instead of 'slush'.

This Prime Minister has simply got to go into the House of Representatives next week and answer the questions that have been put to her. They are legitimate questions. There have been denials to date but there is new information and many, many people have now come out to confirm the alleged involvement of the Prime Minister. If they are wrong, then let us hear the Prime Minister say so personally, in the other place, and give a full, open and proper account of her involvement in the slush fund affair. The Australian people deserve no less and the other place deserves no less if, indeed, Ms Gillard's denials are found to be untrue. The onus is now on her to answer these questions.

This is a matter of trust, and the Australian people have lost trust in this Prime Minister. Indeed, one of the Prime Minister's own, Darren Cheeseman, made that quite clear earlier this year. Mr Cheeseman is the ineffective member for Corangamite. He is ineffective, ineffectual, but he is the member for Corangamite at this stage. What did Mr Cheeseman say about the Prime Minister? He told the Sunday Age earlier this year that, 'many rank-and-file MPs had concluded Ms Gillard's leadership was now ''terminal'''. He then said, 'There's no doubt about it, Julia Gillard can't take the party forward.' And here is the telling comment in relation to trust, the telling comment in relation to where this Prime Minister is, and the telling words in relation to the requirement for the Prime Minister to come into the other place next week and put on record any denial of the allegations that have been made against her. This is what Mr Cheeseman said: 'The community has made its mind up on her.' What do you think he might have been referring to? I think he might have been referring to the trust issue. His view is that his community has lost trust in this Prime Minister. Trust is one of those fundamental hallmarks of leadership. Trust must be attached to a nation's leaders. Mr Cheeseman has made it quite clear that neither he nor his constituents trust this Prime Minister any longer.

I want to turn now to two separate matters which are, I think, causing enormous angst. The Little Creatures brewery, which is part of the Lion Group—

Senator Chris Evans: It's a very good drop.

Senator RONALDSON: I am glad you said that, because remarkably, that drop is not going to be brewed in Geelong. Nor, potentially, will $60 million be spent by the company; nor, potentially, will there be 100 jobs created, because the CFMEU and the AMWU are picketing the construction of the Little Creatures brewery. So you might enjoy a drop, Senator Evans, but you will not be enjoying a drop coming out of Geelong unless these two unions—against whom an injunction had been granted—allow the construction to continue. There will not be any of your favourite drop coming out of Geelong, Senator Evans.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Moore ): I remind you, Senator, that those comments should be directed through the chair, not across the chamber.

Senator RONALDSON: Indeed, the last person I would call 'Senator Evans' would be you, Madam Acting Deputy President, I can assure you of that.

What was said by some of those who are actually trying to drive investment in Geelong? I will go to the Geelong Advertiser—a very fine paper indeed—of 30 October. The Geelong Chamber of Commerce was quoted in the Geelong Advertiser:

"It sends the wrong message to people who want to invest in Geelong," executive officer Bernadette Uzelac said. "We should be making things easier to do business and invest in Geelong and not harder."

What did the Geelong Advertiser editorial say in relation to this, following an intervention by the Premier of Victoria, Mr Ted Baillieu, who expressed his outrage at the behaviour of the unions? The editorial on 20 July said:

Premier Baillieu is right to air the same concerns we did in this space last week when we said we feared for the impact this dispute might have on would-be investors in Geelong.

The editorial went on:

This dispute has to end now. The longer it continues, the more negative impact on future investment it will have and, the more indifference will be shown to the spirit if not the letter of the law.

Developments like this brewery are very important for our community.

Industrial action like we are seeing in South Geelong—despite court orders—does not send a great message to any company looking to establish a business here.

You would think that the local members would have some comment to make about this, because those picketers were there this morning. So I will go through the comments made by the local members. The first was a hard-hitting comment from the member for Geelong, Ian Trezise. He is a charming fellow but, like Mr Cheeseman, highly ineffectual. He is quoted in the Geelong Advertiser on 31 October:

Member for Geelong Ian Trezise urged the company and the unions to sort out the issue as soon as possible.

That is an inspired intervention! But it is probably more inspired than two other interventions that have not been made. We have heard what the Geelong Advertiser has said about the risk to investment into the great centre of Geelong in regional Victoria. We heard what the Chamber of Commerce said about the potential impact of this union picket line, which was found to be illegal, on Geelong. We know that it is going to cost, potentially, a $60 million investment and 100-plus jobs, so one would think that two people in particular might have a comment about this. The first person would be Mr Darren Cheeseman, the current member for Corangamite. The second person, you might think, would be the member for Corio, Mr Richard Marles. I will ask my colleagues to guess at how many comments were made by these two gentlemen in relation to the risk that Geelong faced. Who would like to have a guess?

Senator Fifield: This many!

Senator RONALDSON: 'Two,' Senator Fifield says.

Senator Fifield: No; this many!

Senator RONALDSON: None. You were right the second time, Senator Fifield. Not one single word was said, or has been said, by the member for Corangamite or the member for Corio in relation to a dispute which has been found to be illegal. It is a dispute that will potentially put at risk $60 million of investment and 100 jobs but there was not a word. Why do you think that might be? I will tell you why it is. It is because of that unholy alliance. The alliance between the Australian Labor Party and the Greens is an unholy alliance but there is an unholy alliance between the Australian Labor Party and union members who have turned out, in Geelong, to be nothing but thugs. As we saw with the Grocon dispute, they are nothing but thugs.

Where were Darren Cheeseman and Richard Marles when this was going on? Where were they standing up for investment in their own region? They go and talk the talk but they never, ever walk the walk in relation to looking after and supporting the region of Geelong. They have not said a word. And they have not said a word because of the unholy alliance between them and the union movement. They have effectively been silenced by a union movement that is so powerful it can change a Prime Minister. These two political wimps did not have the intestinal fortitude to make a single comment about this dispute.

You have heard what the Geelong Chamber of Commerce said and what the editorial in the Geelong Advertiser said. This required these two men to stand up for their region and it required these two men to tell the unions to back off and let the investment take place. And they were completely missing in action. They are still missing in action, because their obligation is to the Australian union movement. Their obligation, clearly, is not to those who elected them or those who are part of their wider constituency. And that is what Senator Fifield's motion is about today. It is about the fact that we are seeing, again, further proof about who owes whom, and it is not about the people of Geelong. (Time expired)