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Tuesday, 28 February 2012
Page: 2181

Mr NEUMANN (Blair) (17:57): I have only been here for four years, but that was the most disgraceful and disgusting performance I have ever seen by a member in this place. The right to silence is a cherished institution in this place. He has a right to silence. The member opposite has made, in cowards castle, an allegation that a member of this place is guilty of malfeasance. That is exactly what he said in this place, and he also completely denies the separation of powers. Then he wails and whines over there, but the truth is that everyone is entitled to the right to silence in this country and everyone is innocent until proven guilty. We do not have kangaroo courts in this country. I know that the member for Throsby talked about authoritarian regimes but the truth is that that is the case. I remember very well when I was a practicing lawyer in the Brisbane CBD at the height of the Fitzgerald inquiry. I remember distinctly a former National Party Premier of Queensland being asked a question about the separation of powers under cross-examination, and him fumbling and stumbling around, but still in all the separation of powers is absolutely critical.

This motion before this place, shows the depths to which the coalition will plummet. There is the self-righteousness, the sanctimony and the unctuous activity from those opposite, when they know very well that Fair Work Australia has been established properly and that they are undertaking an independent investigation in relation to this matter, and it is the hypocrisy of what they are doing. For example, the inconsistency: one day they say to us that we should be hurrying along Fair Work Australia in their investigation—that we should be giving them a prod along—saying, in effect, that we should interfere. The next day they are saying that we should not be doing that. This motion here in this place talks about wanting an assurance there has been no political interference in Fair Work Australia. They simply cannot have it both ways. They cannot criticise us one day on one thing and another on the next. They cannot come into this place and besmirch members of this House who have been elected by the people.

I remember back in 2007 when former Prime Minister John Howard was questioned about three MPs and on ABC radio on 7 March, 2007—and he was absolutely right about the three members under investigation—he said:

But a lot of people who are under investigation end up having nothing to answer for …It's a police investigation and the appropriate thing for me to do is to let the police investigation run its course and then if it is appropriate I will have something to say.

That is absolutely correct. I wish that those opposite who claim that they are standing in the footsteps of John Howard and are following him—treating him as their mentor, their guide and their apostle almost—would follow what he has to say here. I wish they would show some discretion, some integrity and some honesty about this.

This motion really is a terrible distraction from the business of this government and from the business of this place. We have better things to do in this House. We have education reforms and health reforms to talk about. We have infrastructure, road and rail. We have important things that we could do in this place and important things that those opposite should hold us to account.

Labor has not always been in government; Labor is often in opposition and those opposite are often in government and now they are in opposition. It behoves them—it behoves either side of politics—to hold the government to account, not to engage in gutter tactics in relation to these types of matters. What they are trying to do here is undermine the integrity of Fair Work Australia regardless of the outcome. Why are they trying to do that? Because they are trying to distract from the complete absence, the complete policy vacuum that those opposite have. The Member for Throsby is absolutely right—besmirch a member of this place, besmirch Fair Work Australia and bring back an industrial relations system that they always wanted. They are the architects, apostles and devotees of Work Choices. That is what this is about. It is about the biggest dummy spit you have ever seen in political history, as the Leader of the House has said. On many occasions they have done it. They should hang their heads in shame about this particular matter. (Time expired)

Debate adjourned.