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Tuesday, 20 March 2012
Page: 2254


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (13:54): I am pleased to add my voice in opposition to this atrocious piece of legislation that replaces a successful organisation that has brought peace, prosperity and progress to the building industry with an organisation which, on recent history, will have no ability to do that. Fair Work Australia is the most enormously misnamed group in Australia at the moment. Anything fair about that organisation I am still yet to see, and I must say that most Australians share my cynicism of that particular group. You have only to look at the way they have mishandled—and, one would think, almost institutionally covered up—the investigation into Labor member, Mr Craig Thomson, over alleged impropriety and use of union funds to realise that anything under the control of Fair Work Australia is not going to do much for peace, order and good governance of the building industry.

The Building and Construction Industry Improvement Amendment (Transition to Fair Work) Bill 2012, which is before us, represents another capitulation to the union movement by this government. Indeed, this government is principally made up of union bosses and union heavies, with little experience in life and little understanding of what is good for Australia. Do not get me wrong, Mr Acting Deputy President, I have nothing against unionists; in fact, a number of my friends are unionists. A number of unionists are members of the Liberal Party and their numbers are increasing, I might say, even though the number of unionists throughout Australia continues to fall as people realise that the unions are only interested in union bosses and their jobs rather than what happens to the workers at ground level. You only have to look at those lowly paid workers in the Health Services Union to understand that their bosses are not interested in good conditions for lowly paid workers—they are interested in their own conditions in brothels and in attending flash dinners.

Mr Acting Deputy President, I do not want to put you at a disadvantage in the chair, so no names mentioned here, but when I say that union bosses and heavies are only interested in their own jobs, I am aware that an old mate of mine, former Senator George Campbell—a very good contributor to this Senate and to great debates here—was stabbed in the back by a mate of his and served for only six years in this parliament. One would wonder how that helped the interests of those workers in the union that former Senator George Campbell represenĀ­ted. You can understand how it helped those who replaced Senator George Campbell. I do not know whether this is true, but I read in the paper that Senator George Campbell's replacement got a job as a director of one of these top-end-of-town superannuation companies. I do not know what the salary is for a director in one of these top-end-of-town superannuation companies, but—

Senator Conroy: Become a member and then you can ask.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Sorry? Become a member? Do you mean I could apply for one of those top-end-of-town jobs. I am interested in asking the particular senator who was involved. Now that he is free to defend himself, I can name him—Senator Doug Cameron. I ask Senator Cameron what he received as a director of one of those superannuation companies.

Senator Cameron interjecting

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Senator Cameron says 'Absolutely nought'. I see there is a court case going on in Victoria, where a union delegate was on one of those boards. The union rules required that any fees that a unionist got on a board went not into the pockets of the particular unionist but back into the coffers of the union. That particular person was allegedly—I do not know the rights and wrongs of this; it is only what I read in the paper—pocketing the money and his union has sued him for its return. Senator Cameron tells me by way of gesture that he was not receiving anything, and I accept that. Perhaps he was getting something and giving it to the union. Whichever it is, one wonders about the interest that union bosses and leaders have in their members. Again, I can only refer senators to the Health Services Union, where nobody can tell me that the lowly paid workers who are members of that union got anything from their bosses.

Debate interrupted.