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Wednesday, 13 September 2017
Page: 7141

Australian Building and Construction Commissioner


Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (14:11): My question is to the Minister for Employment, Senator Cash. This afternoon, the minister announced the resignation of Nigel Hadgkiss as commissioner of the Australian Building and Construction Commission. Given the seriousness of Mr Hadgkiss's misbehaviour, why did the minister allow him to resign instead of just sacking him?


Senator CASH (Western AustraliaMinister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service, Minister for Employment and Minister for Women) (14:12): I have to say, seriously, I don't even know if I should dignify that with an answer. Because when you talk about serious behaviour, serious behaviour is what we saw today—a fine in excess of $2.4 million handed down against the CFMEU—

The PRESIDENT: Senator Carr, a point of order?

Senator Kim Carr: This is a serious question, and it goes to the question of a Commonwealth officer breaching the law. The minister has said that this was a question that did not deserve an answer. There is a question of relevance that I draw to your attention. It's a specific question, and the minister ought answer it directly.

The PRESIDENT: I will remind the minister of the question.

Senator CASH: Thank you, Mr President, and, as I have said, Mr Hadgkiss today did tender his resignation today to the government as head of the Australian Building and Construction Commission, and the government accepted that resignation. But in relation to the conduct of those on the other side, and those that they support, let me remind you—

The PRESIDENT: A point of order, Senator Cameron?

Government senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: On my right—just a moment, Senator Cameron

Senator Ian Macdonald interjecting

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Senator Macdonald, and senators on my left as well. Order!

Senator Cameron: It's on direct relevance. My question was simple. It was only one question: why did the minister allow him to resign instead of just sacking him?

The PRESIDENT: The minister did answer by indicating that the government did accept the resignation and announced the resignation. I feel as though the minister has been directly relevant to the question by the way she has answered the question in the first instance. I know it's not as specific as you would like, Senator Cameron, but I think she has been directly relevant to the answer. Minister, had you concluded your answer?

Senator CASH: I will not stand here and be lectured by those on the other side who stand up and defend criminal behaviour across unions, and in particular the CFMEU. I will not stand here and be lectured by those on the other side who take tens of millions of dollars from a criminal organisation. I will not stand here and be lectured by those on the other side—

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Cameron, on a point of order?

Senator Cameron: Yes, Mr President—again on relevance. This was a very serious question about a commissioner appointed by this minister having to resign because of illegal activity. I'm asking why the minister did not sack this individual, and she should answer it.

A government senator interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order on my right! Senator Cameron, in relation to the point of order, you did ask: why did the minister accept the resignation rather than sack? The minister indicated that she did accept the resignation or the government had accepted the resignation. The minister has been directly relevant to the question. The minister has heard your points of order on two occasions, Senator Cameron. The minister has 50 seconds left and I invite the minister to continue her answer.

Senator CASH: Deny, distract and then defend. Let's go through, again, a number of those who are well known to those on the other side and the behaviour they have indulged in. Shaun Reardon, the CFMEU's Victorian assistant state secretary, has already been fined $50,000. He was actually a White Ribbon ambassador until he was dumped by White Ribbon for his disgusting behaviour when it comes to violence against women. That is who those on the other side defend. Gareth Stephenson, another CFMEU organiser, has been fined $118,000. Ralph Edwards, the Victorian branch president, has already been fined $53,250 and, of course, then there's Duncan McAllister, with 101 alleged breaches, including coercion and threats. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Cameron, a supplementary question.

















Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (14:16): Mr Hadgkiss has admitted to recklessly breaching section 503 of the Fair Work Act. When did the minister first become aware of the behaviour that Mr Hadgkiss now admits was a breach of the act?


Senator CASH (Western AustraliaMinister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service, Minister for Employment and Minister for Women) (14:17): I became aware of the behaviour in October 2016.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Cameron, a final supplementary question.



Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (14:17): In announcing Mr Hadgkiss's resignation, the minister said he 'has played a pivotal role in restoring the rule of law'. How can the minister make this claim given Mr Hadgkiss has himself admitted to recklessly breaching the law?


Senator CASH (Western AustraliaMinister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service, Minister for Employment and Minister for Women) (14:17): Again, Mr President, I will not stand here and be lectured by those on the other side who stand here and defend the most militant union in Australia, many of whom have been found guilty of what is criminal conduct. I will not stand here and be lectured to by those on the other side who happily defend members of the CFMEU.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Cameron, a point of order.

Senator Cameron: I was not lecturing; I simply asked a question: how can the minister make this claim given Mr Hadgkiss has himself admitted to recklessly breaching the law? That was the question. It's on relevance.

The PRESIDENT: I will remind the minister of the question. Minister, you have 32 seconds in which to answer.

Senator CASH: Again, I will not stand here and be lectured by those on the other side whilst they continue to take tens of millions of dollars from the CFMEU, who have been found to be the most militant union in this country, and when Federal Court judge after Federal Court judge has stated that they have no regard for the law.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Cameron, a point of order.

Senator Cameron: Again, Mr President, my point of order goes to relevance. This was about Mr Hadgkiss having to resign because of recklessly breaking the law. That was the question.

The PRESIDENT: Thank you, Senator Cameron. I'll accept your point of order again. I will remind the minister of the question.

Senator CASH: I've finished.