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Tuesday, 20 March 2012
Page: 2317

Senator RONALDSON (Victoria) (17:41): As we lurch towards another guillotine on which I presume the Greens will be joining the government, it is another marvellous example of democracy. You say one thing for years and then, when push comes to shove, all of a sudden there are completely different rules. But we expect that from the Labor-Greens alliance. Those opposite do not like being told, but it is a Labor-Greens alliance. As I said before, you people will die by that sword, as you deserve to in due course.

I want to repeat some of the comments that have been put on the record by my colleagues in relation to this bill. We strongly oppose it. We believe that every Australian, whether they be an employer or an employee, deserves to go to their workplace and operate in an environment where basic law and order is enforced. This bill abolishes the body that ensures that law and order is enforced in the building and construction industry. This bill will strip away the protections of workers to work in a safe and lawful environment. The replacement agency will be a toothless tiger that will again roll out the red carpet to lawlessness, violence and thuggery.

Let us be absolutely sure about the motivation for this bill. This is wholly motivated by the Australian Labor Party because it protects their interests. They are doing this because they are completely and utterly beholden to the trade union move­ment and they seek to rejuvenate the worst aspects of the Australian industrial landscape for their own cheap political and financial purposes. If the bungled Craig Thomson inquiry is anything to go by, we are going to have a lot of confidence in the Fair Work Australia building industry inspectorate. That will be the ultimate toothless tiger. We have absolutely no confidence.

This is a sop to us and to others to say that we are replacing like with like. It is absolutely not. It is an apple replaced with an rotten banana. We do not believe in any way that the independence of the inspectorate will be anything but biased. It will be compro­mised under the supervision of the same incompetent ex-union officials who run Fair Work Australia at the moment. We know full well that we are heading back to the Dollar Sweets dispute of the 1980s for cheap political purposes driven by the Australian Labor Party. It is actually about turning back the clock even further to the 1950s when society was divided along class lines and class warfare determined industrial relations in this country. We heard from Senator Cameron earlier on. Senator Cameron was brought up in Bellshill. That was where he learned the class warfare that we heard about in his speech today. When he talks about employees without unions as slaves, you know that class warfare is alive and well.

I know others want to speak in this debate, so I will keep my comments reasonably short. However, I just want to go through some other matters which again need to be put on the public record. The benefits of the ABCC were increased productivity of 10 per cent in the building and construction industry and an annual economic welfare gain of $5.9 billion per year. When you talk about a billion dollars with the Australian Labor Party and the Gillard government it just rolls off the tongue, but that is $5.9 thousand million of economic welfare gain for our economy that we are talking about. It reduced inflation by 1.2 per cent and increased GDP by 1.5 per cent. The number of working days lost annually per thousand employees in the construction industry fell from 224 in 2004 to 24 in 2006. Building costs have fallen by about 20 or 25 per cent and long project delays have been dramatically reduced.

Why would it be, do you think, that the Labor Party is so keen to get this bill through? Let us have a look at some other figures that may or may not have been talked about in this debate. Let us talk about union donations to the ALP, for example. In 2010-11, the national ALP received donations and other receipts from: the AMWU of $100,000; the CFMEU, $1,020,000; the ETU of the New South Wales branch, $20,000; and the Communications, Electrical and Plumbers Union, $500,000. And people are wondering why this bill has come before the Senate. If you were a new arrival in this country and looked at this, you would ask, 'What's the debate about?' The debate is about the excessive influence of the trade union movement in this country where it can actually determine that a body that has delivered economic and other gains to this country be removed at the behest of the Australian Labor Party. Let us look at the New South Wales branch: the AMWU, $100,000; CFMEU, $120,000; and the ETU in New South Wales , $1 million. In Victoria: ETU, $300,000; and CFMEU, $200,000. All they are doing is locking in their primary source of income with this bill. It is interesting isn't it?

You will be particularly interested in this, Mr Acting Deputy President Marshall, knowing your very keen affection for the man I am just about to talk about. We talk about cash for comment. We have got comment for cash in the member for Corangamite. It is comment for cash, not cash for comment. On 6 June 2008, Misha Schubert in the Age wrote that Victorian Labor MP Darren Cheeseman said the public would be alarmed to learn how the laws work—they are the laws we are just about to get rid of now. He said that one of the issues is that the building industry workers—wait for this—under 'this legislation have less rights than criminals or terrorists'. I am sure that was one of the lines you did not give him, Mr Acting Deputy President. Guess what we saw in the Age on 18 August 2010. We saw an exclusive from Ben Schneider. Mr Mighell—that is Dean Mighell of course—from the ETU said:

… his union would make small donations to the marginal-seat campaigns of Labor's Mike Symon in Deakin and Darren Cheeseman in Corangamite. In the 2007 election campaign, the ETU spent hundreds of thousands to get those two candidates elected.

Here we are on 18 August 2010 talking about money that was put in by the ETU and we refer back to Mr Cheeseman's comments after the election, after they got the ETU money, on 6 June. So it was comment for cash. He got the bickies and they got the comment. He got the dollars and Mr Cheeseman made the comments. It is no more and no less than political payback, and it is a complete and utter disgrace.

I hope that those opposite in I reckon about 12 months time when we see the outcome of this disastrous bill today will have the gumption to reflect on what they have done. I hope they will have the gumption to go back and put back in place the independent umpire that delivered economic results for this country for everyone—an independent umpire that was not there at the behest of the trade union movement or the Australian Labor Party. The sooner you bring that body back the better we will be.