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Tuesday, 28 May 2002
Page: 2463


Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP (3:01 PM) — My question without notice is to the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations. Is the minister aware of registered organisations under the Workplace Relations Act exercising control over political parties? What is the government's response to union block votes inside political parties, and are there any alternative policies in relation to this issue?


Mr ABBOTT (Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service) —I have a very clear answer to the excellent question from the member for Mackellar. This government believes in democracy. We believe in government of the people, by the people, for the people. We do not believe in government of the people by the unions for the unions. We believe in one man, one vote. We do not believe in one man, one thousand votes if you happen to be the union secretary.

Let me make it very clear to this House that business organisations have no block vote inside the Liberal Party, farm organisations have no block vote inside the National Party and Green organisations have no block vote inside the Australian Democrats. Unions have no block vote inside the British Labour Party, and unions should have no block vote inside the Australian Labor Party.

Opposition members interjecting—


The SPEAKER —Order! The House will come to order. The member for Lilley! The member for Corio is warned!


Mr ABBOTT —When the Leader of the Opposition took over the ALP, he said that things were going to be different. He said that he was going to be a party reformer. He said that he did not want the ALP to be nothing but the political wing of the ACTU. Having made the big promises, the Leader of the Opposition's great reform turns out to be changing the unions' shareholding from 60 per cent to 50 per cent. He is changing a majority shareholding to a controlling shareholding—a distinction without a difference. It is a cosmetic change on a par with the Leader of the Opposition's pathetic attempts to deepen his voice.

Having come up with a dud policy, he squibbed the chance to fight for it. He swaggered up to Sydney saying that he had never walked away from a fight in his life. The only fight he is interested in is one that has the result rigged in advance. He was mugged by the mates, not once but twice. The union heavies took him backstage at the Sydney Town Hall and they intimidated him into changing his speech, which turned out to be the biggest anti-climax since Halley's comet. Then, after the Leader of the Opposition had slunk out like a beaten impostor, Neville Wran, the most successful Labor leader of his generation, stood up and accused him of taking what he called `the Howard-Abbott bait'. He said of the Leader of the Opposition, `The party is a creation of the trade unions. Why we even have to mention the 60-40 rule is beyond my comprehension.' That is the verdict of Neville Wran on the pathetic, gutless political failure of the Leader of the Opposition, who talks about everything except what he really believes in. Members on this side of the House are governing the country and members opposite cannot even govern their own party.