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Wednesday, 18 October 2017
Page: 7882

Workplace Relations


Senator PATERSON (Victoria) (14:52): My question is to the Minister for Employment, Senator Cash. Is the minister aware of reports concerning the intimidation of workers by members of registered organisations?


Senator CASH (Western AustraliaMinister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service, Minister for Employment and Minister for Women) (14:53): Unfortunately, Senator Paterson, I am. Yet again, colleagues—and, in particular, colleagues from Victoria—we are seeing further disturbing reports about union bullying. Recent reports in The Age outline a culture of bullying and intimidation of employees of the Country Fire Authority in Victoria by members of the United Firefighters Union. The report says:

Literally hundreds and hundreds of respondents gave detail of behaviours that included criminal sexual assault; sexual harassment; physical altercations; bullying; intimidation; harassment; threats of violence …"

A staff member is reported to have said:

Bullying starts with UFU on CFA, managers against staff. This is a circus, not a work place.

What is worse is that Professor Caroline Taylor, who undertook the survey into bullying in the CFA, was herself bullied. Professor Taylor stated:

Nobody goes to work to be intimidated or harassed or sexually assaulted or raped, and find that, not only can they not report, but when they do they are set upon …

In The Weekend Australian, Simon Benson also reported allegations of intimidation and bullying.

The PRESIDENT: On a point of order, Senator Cameron.

Senator Cameron: The minister does this every time she's in question time.

The PRESIDENT: What is your point of order?

Senator Cameron: Could the minister provide any police activity or any evidence that the police have been dealing with this matter? Maybe that is something that she should do—table any documents from the police instead of attacking the trade union movement every day. She is an absolute disgrace.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Cameron, there is no point of order. If you feel as though there are any inaccuracies or there are any aspects of a minister's response that you're not comfortable with, there are many avenues within the program of the Senate for you to address that—not during question time by way of a point of order. Minister, you have the call.

Senator CASH: As I was saying, there are reports of allegations of intimidation and bullying by members of the UFU against at least 10 senior firefighters. This appalling behaviour included a bullet being mailed to the home of one of the firefighters. You may ask what prompted such a menacing threat. The victim sought a promotion without seeking permission of the union. The government is always proud to stand alongside the members of the CFA.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Paterson, a supplementary question?









Senator PATERSON (Victoria) (14:56): Can the minister outline what the Turnbull government is doing to protect individuals from bullying by members of registered organisations?


Senator CASH (Western AustraliaMinister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service, Minister for Employment and Minister for Women) (14:56): We will call out bullying and intimidation, no matter who it is from. We stood up quite proudly for the volunteers of the Country Fire Authority in Victoria and we will continue to do so. These are proud men and women who put their lives on the line every day. Why? Because they believe in community service and they believe in their state of Victoria. It is unfortunate that there are still those who would not stand up for the CFA. What does it say to those volunteers who give their lives and who put their lives on the line? It says that you don't respect or value them. We will always respect and value members of the CFA.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Paterson, a final supplementary question?



Senator PATERSON (Victoria) (14:57): How can all parliamentarians stand against this appalling behaviour?


Senator CASH (Western AustraliaMinister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service, Minister for Employment and Minister for Women) (14:57): We can all take a stand and stop defending the indefensible. We can all take a stand and proudly stand up for all of the volunteers in all of our states who proudly give their time and their service to ensure that their states are safe, especially in times of disasters. We do know that the UFU ended the ministerial career of the left-wing Labor frontbencher Jane Garrett, because she dared to take a stand against them. What we have, constantly, is what was written up in The Age:

It is a strange position for a Premier—

Daniel Andrews—

who has worked hard to position himself as strong on respect for women, to have no interest in standing up to a union that appears to have none.

Each and every one of us has a responsibility in this place to stand up and to defend the indefensible, and, in particular, to stand up for the great volunteers. (Time expired)