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Thursday, 25 July 2019
Page: 1040

Trade Unions


Mr LAMING (Bowman) (14:09): My question is to the Minister for Industrial Relations. Will the minister inform the House of the contributions made by militant unions to political parties in recent years? Is the minister concerned that law-breaking unions are funding the activities of political parties?


Mr PORTER (PearceAttorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Leader of the House) (14:10): I thank the member for his question. As the member is aware, the ensuring integrity bill would allow for a court to make a finding, for instance, that a person was not a fit and proper person to be a public official for a union—or, indeed, for an employer association; the bill applies to both instances. The court might make a decision that someone's not a fit and proper person, for instance, because they had a significant history of breaking the civil law or criminal law in Australia, especially on criminal laws punishable by two years or more imprisonment. Why is that important? That is important because unlawful behaviour risks the safety of workers. It costs the taxpayer and it means that there is behaviour occurring in our workplaces that simply should not be tolerated.

Unfortunately, the present laws have not provided sufficient deterrence to repeated unlawful behaviour of a small number of militant unionists. What sort of behaviour are we talking about here? The Leader of the Opposition says that John Setka is not a fit and proper person to be a member of the Labor Party. Why does he say that? Because of John Setka's record of law-breaking. What is that record? John Setka has, to this point, amassed around 59 court convictions for a multitude of offences, including: assault police, five times; assault by kicking, five times; wilful trespass, seven times; resisting arrest, five times; theft, attempted theft by deception and intent to coerce, nine times; coercion, 10 times. These things, now, finally, have formed the basis of a conclusion by the opposition leader that militant unionist John Setka is not a fit and proper person to be a member of the Labor Party.

But, interestingly, the same remarkable record of offending has not also given rise to a view from the opposition leader that it is not fit and proper for Labor to accept the $1 million that John Setka sent to Labor as a Victorian branch secretary. Likewise, it's remarkable that that criminal record doesn't now appear to be the basis for a view that it was not fit and proper for Labor to accept $13 million from the CFMEU in total.

What we have here is a situation where the character of John Setka is now rejected fulsomely by Labor, but his cash is still warmly accepted—as much of it that can flow as possible. Who is actually standing up for workers here? Who is actually on the side of workers? Labor accept a million dollars directly from a man they say is not a fit and proper person to be a member of the Labor Party and, at the same time, the ABCC has just announced that it has recovered $1 million in underpaid wages for almost 1,400 workers. Following Labor's view, put to them by John Setka, the ABCC— (Time expired)