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Thursday, 25 July 2019
Page: 1038

Trade Unions


Mr TED O'BRIEN (Fairfax) (14:03): My question goes to the Minister for Industrial Relations. Will the minister inform the House whether militant unionism has impacted the occupational health and safety of workers in my electorate of Fairfax and in Queensland more generally?


Mr PORTER (PearceAttorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Leader of the House) (14:04): I thank the member for his question. As the member is aware, the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment (Ensuring Integrity) Bill 2019 is designed to see that our courts have the ability to ensure lawful behaviour on Australian worksites. It is a bill that will apply equally to employer and employee organisations, and there are a number of reasons why this bill is critical and why maintaining lawful conduct on workplaces is critical. Unlawful conduct adds to the costs of infrastructure borne by the Australian taxpayer. One of the very important reasons that unlawful behaviour on worksites must be stopped is that it puts the safety of workers at risk.

We know that the CFMMEU has racked up $16 million in court fines for unlawful behaviour for over 2,000 breaches. What is less well known is that many of those breaches themselves relate to violations of occupational health and safety standards. Last year the full Federal Court found that a CFMMEU official had acted in an improper manner to a Victorian government occupational health and safety officer. The grotesque behaviour of the CFMMEU to that official is behaviour directed not at another worker or an employer but at a safety official.

When we look at Queensland, there are proceedings that were commenced in December last year against a CFMMEU organiser for his behaviour towards a Queensland government occupational health and safety inspector. The construction site was Cairns Performing Arts Centre. The safety inspector was in the course of inspecting exit signage. He was confronted by the CFMMEU official, who within centimetres of the face of the safety officer said, 'You are an effing dog'—not once, not twice but three times. And the upshot of all this—

The SPEAKER: If the minister could pause there, I'm just going to make a point I've had to make before, about a year ago. I appreciate that the minister is seeking to—let me just say this: unparliamentary language cannot be introduced by way of a quote. It's quite clear in Practice, and I just caution all members, when they're even abbreviating a quote, to be mindful of the audience.

Mr PORTER: Indeed, no-one should have to put up with that language in their workplace—no-one. The Queensland Public Sector Union now has a list of 17 sites that they will not let their members, their safety inspectors, visit—and I'm quoting from that union—because:

Members will not attend work at locations which are deemed unsafe by the State Secretary due to the likely presence of individuals or organisations whose behaviour is deemed a risk to members' workplace health and safety.

The public sector union representing safety inspectors in Queensland will not allow its members to go to workplaces because of abuse by the CFMMEU, because it is unsafe. This is a quote from the website of the public sector union:

Inspectors will not attend sites to resolve right of entry issues under s81[3] of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 where there is a risk of occupational violence.

Yet the Labor Party's national executive includes the CFMMEU Queensland secretary as its member. (Time expired)