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Thursday, 21 June 2018
Page: 3666

Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (18:00): I'd like to take note of government document No. 6, the Australian Building and Construction Commission's Performance of the functions and the exercise of powers of the Australian Building and Construction Commissioner: quarterly report: first quarter of 2017-18 financial year: operations from 1 July-30 September inclusive. You really can't deal with this document without dealing with the minister who had, until recently, oversight of the Australian Building and Construction Commission, and that is Senator Michaelia Cash.

Senator Michaelia Cash has really made an absolute mess of everything that she has touched. She has come in here as an industrial warrior, a political warrior, for the coalition. She has sat and not properly oversighted her portfolio area. You only have to look at what's been done by this minister: putting her apparatchiks in various so-called independent organisations—the Registered Organisations Commission, the Australian Building and Construction Commission and the Fair Work Ombudsman. You see a mesh and a framework of people associated with this minister in these so-called independent bodies and actually acting in a partisan way against the trade union movement and against the Labor Party. This minister is an absolute disgrace.

It was only an hour ago that I was up in the Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee hearing that was a flow-over from the estimates committee hearings. Minister Cash was there. I gave her the opportunity once again to actually be honest and be up-front with the Australian people in relation to her bad behaviour as a minister, her poor behaviour as a minister and her failure to uphold Westminster standards—her coming into Senate estimates and on five occasions misleading the parliament. On five occasions this minister misled the parliament. She then had to come into estimates and concede that one of her staff was the leak to the media of a Federal Police raid. The commissioner of the Federal Police, at a subsequent estimates hearing, indicated that he was extremely concerned about those leaks because it puts the Federal Police in danger and puts their capacity to do the job effectively in question.

This is a minister who has presided over some of the worst aspects of ministerial oversight that I have ever seen. Here she was. The previous ABCC commissioner, the disgraced Mr Nigel Hadgkiss, who had responsibility to oversight the ABCC and who had responsibility to carry out and police the legal requirements of the industry, was breaching the standards that he was supposed to uphold. This was another one of Senator Cash's apparatchiks: the disgraced Mr Nigel Hadgkiss, the former commissioner. This was when she was in a position where she should have taken action against him but did not. She spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of public money to defend this commissioner. The commissioner himself was spending this money, and the minister, Michaelia Cash, had no proper oversight of the disgraceful activities.

The Registered Organisations Commission is another so-called independent body set up by this government to attack the trade union movement and the Labor Party. This is a government that is outrageous. Minister Cash would do well as part of the ruling oligarchy in Russia, doing what they do to subvert democracy there. Minister Cash is doing the same thing here. Minister Cash is an absolute disgrace. Minister Cash should resign. Minister Cash should be honest with the Australian public. She should show some credibility and some capacity to understand what her obligations are. If she did, she would resign. (Time expired)

I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.