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Thursday, 11 October 2012
Page: 8025

Senator BILYK (Tasmania) (15:26): You are a charming man, Senator Brandis. And I say that with no sincerity.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Bilyk, you have the call and direct your comments to the chair.

Senator BILYK: As Senator Crossin stood and said that she was very proud to be an ex-union official, so do I. Having worked for a number of years for the Australian Services Union, I can say that nobody I know in the union movement or in this government condones any bad behaviour or any illegal activity, whether it be by a trade union, by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry or by business. I would like to make it very clear that nobody on this side condones that sort of behaviour.

But, having said that, I say as an ex-union official that I was involved in the anti Work Choices campaign. I suggest to anybody listening that, if they believe in any way, shape or form that those on the other side are friends of the workers, they are seriously mistaken. It is pretty apparent from the Work Choices campaign that was run and that we expect will be run again, even though we have heard that it is dead and buried, I think it will come back—

Senator Abetz: And cremated.

Senator BILYK: And cremated. I think it will come back like a phoenix. It will come back. It might come back under another name. I have yet to see any proof that those on the other side really care at all about working people. It is this side of the chamber that has planned to help families. When you are talking about working people generally, that is what you are talking about. So it is this side of the chamber that has the plan to help families with the cost of living. We have the plan, and we are putting it into action to build a strong economy. We intend to do that, and we have started doing that in a number of ways.

I have to say that I find the constant negativity about unions appalling.

Senator Abetz: No, corrupt unions.

Senator BILYK: No, Senator Abetz. I will take that interjection. It is about all unions. You demonise all unions. You demonise all union members. By default, you demonise those working people who are members of unions. I remember recently—I did not hear one question on it in this chamber—that there was quite a lot of media activity recently in Tasmania, my home state, about the Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the $800,000 black hole that they seem to have developed. I am not quite sure the question of what happened to that $800,000 was ever resolved.

For those on the other side to stand up and demonise unions as though they are the worst thing possible is just immoral, and it is not genuine—except that you dislike unions, and the coalition's previous activity in trying to get rid of unions proves that. You know that this government has appointed an administrator to the HSU issue, and we did that without the support of those opposite. You also know that this government has acted to improve the transparency and accountability of registered organisations, including trade unions and employee groups, and to improve the powers of Fair Work Australia to investigate.

This government has worked to improve the regulation of registered organisations, including unions. I am very proud to be part of the union movement, part of that group of people that does get out and do the hard yards for those who cannot necessarily even afford lawyers. I notice that the coalition side of the chamber has lots of ex-lawyers or people who still think they are acting in the High Court or the House of Lords, but on this side we are actual workers—workers who have been there and done that. I worked my way up through the ranks—as I think most people in the union movement have done, and they are very proud to stand tall and be members of the trade union body.

This government believes very strongly in a free and independent trade union movement, as opposed to those on the other side who would like to have no trade union movement whatsoever. This government believes in the advocacy of employer organisations on behalf of their members. I do not understand why the coalition constantly harp on and on and misrepresent facts by standing up for four minutes as the previous speaker did talking about alleged activities of the Prime Minister but then covering himself a bit by saying, 'I am not alleging fraud.' (Time expired)