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Wednesday, 31 October 2012
Page: 12811

Fair Work Act


Mr PYNE (SturtManager of Opposition Business) (14:46): My question is to the Prime Minister. I remind the Prime Minister that the former federal president of the Labor Party, Michael Williamson, has been charged with fraudulently misappropriating $600,000 in funds collected from low-paid union members. Did the Prime Minister place any provisions in the Fair Work Act, which she used to boast she had written, to enable the recovery of funds stolen by corrupt union officials? If not, why not?


Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:46): As I have explained to this parliament in the past, when we replaced Work Choices and its dreadful rip-offs of working people, when we replaced the fact that people could be dismissed for no reason, when we replaced the industrial laws that had hurt working women the most, when we replaced those vile laws from those opposite, the Leader of the Opposition and the opposition generally, what we did was create the Fair Work Act and fairness and decency at work. What we also did in relation to the provisions for registered organisations was effectively bring them from the former legislation into new legislation—that is, there was no substantive change to the provisions for registered organisations.

The offences in Work Choices were against working people. They were about working people having their penalty rates ripped off, they were about working people being unfairly dismissed, they were about working women being unable to secure equal pay, and the list went on and on. So we fixed all of that, but, as for the registered organisations provisions, they appear in the Fair Work legislation—or they did appear in the Fair Work legislation—effectively in the same terms as under the former Howard government. Then, of course, in the recent period—

Mr Pyne: Madam Speaker, on a point of order: the Prime Minister was asked whether she put provisions in there to recover misappropriated funds from corrupt union officials, and she has not yet even tried to answer that question.

The SPEAKER: The Manager of Opposition Business will resume his seat. The Prime Minister has the call.

Ms GILLARD: I am pointing out to the member for Sturt that the provisions were in the same terms as the provisions that he supported when he was a member of the government. So it would seem to me incredibly negative for him to suddenly be opposed to them when he supported them every day in government.

Since then, and in the light of some recent issues, the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations has brought into the parliament, and the parliament has passed, new laws for registered organisations, particularly relating to transparency. So the answer to the member for Sturt's question is that initially the laws were in substantively the same form as the Howard government's and since then this government has chosen to tighten them up.