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Wednesday, 13 September 2017
Page: 7162


Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (15:24): I move:

That the Senate take note of the answers given by ministers to questions without notice asked by Opposition senators today.

Well, what a day it has been! We have seen the government's attack dog on the Australian trade union movement having to resign—that is, Mr Nigel Hadgkiss, Minister Cash's attack dog. Before that he was former Minister Abetz and former Prime Minister Abbott's attack dog. The government owns Mr Hadgkiss lock, stock and barrel. The minister and those opposite own Mr Hadgkiss's reckless and deliberate breach of the Fair Work Act, which he admitted before the Federal Court yesterday, just as they and Senator Cash own his repeated lying to and misleading of the Senate in estimates and just as they own his contempt for the Senate. More than anyone else, Minister Cash owns the lying, dissembling and unlawfulness of Mr Hadgkiss. Despite repeated warnings about his conduct—

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Cameron, please resume your seat. Senator Brandis?

Senator Brandis: As you know, it is highly disorderly to cast reflections or imputations upon another senator. To suggest that Senator Cash, to use Senator Cameron's words, 'owns Mr Hadgkiss's alleged lying and unlawfulness' is a reflection upon Senator Cash, and it must be withdrawn.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Cameron, you just need to clarify whether that was a reflection on the minister. If it was, I'd ask you to withdraw it, or, if it wasn't, to make that clear in your statement.

Senator CAMERON: I'd like to make it clear that this is a reflection on Mr Hadgkiss. Mr Hadgkiss is the officer who is responsible to the minister and who has lied and dissembled to the Senate. That's the position. This is Mr Hadgkiss, who was appointed by this minister, Senator Cash. He was appointed previously by Senator Abetz, but he was appointed by Senator Cash to be an attack dog on the trade union movement. There's nothing more than that. Yet, despite warnings about his conduct as director of the former Fair Work Building and Construction, Minister Cash did not hesitate to appoint this man as Australian Building and Construction Commissioner when the ABCC bill passed this place last year.

It's no secret that I'm a trenchant critic of Mr Hadgkiss. I am critical of his incompetence when he was in that position. I am critical of his bias. I am critical of the strong smell of cronyism that accompanied the termination and appointment of SES officers in his agency. I am critical of his determined refusal to be accountable to the Senate and estimates hearings. I am critical of his repeated dishonesty and dissembling in his answers to questions put on notice to him in estimates. I am critical of his contempt of parliament. I am critical of his contempt for the Australian Public Service values and ethical standards. He was not, in my view, a fit and proper person to hold the office he held.

The minister can't say she wasn't warned about the perils of appointing this man as the ABCC commissioner. Senator Xenophon said in his contribution in the second reading debate on the ABCC bills:

I notice Senator Cameron has been a trenchant critic of the current director of the FWBC, Mr Hadgkiss, but I do have concerns about the way that office has been run, its impartiality and whether it has also adequately pursued employers who have not done the right thing and contravened the current legislative framework. That is an observation I make and I do not believe that it is a unfair one in terms of the conduct of the current director of that inspectorate.

This minister knew the problems with this guy. In the committee stage of the bill, Senator Xenophon went further. He went on to say:

To say that I am unimpressed with Mr Hadgkiss as a regulator would be an incredible understatement. … I have very serious concerns about the way he has been running the FWBC. I have very real concerns about the way he has been conducting himself and the way he has been operating and, who knows, there may well be a need for a separate Senate inquiry in relation to the conduct of Mr Hadgkiss, which I would very gladly support. I for one hope that he retires much, much sooner than later.

A couple of hours later Senator Xenophon said this:

The significance of this amendment is that it gives the right to issue a writ of mandamus against whomever is in the position as ABCC commissioner—and I hope it's still not Mr Hadgkiss—…

That wasn't the only criticism of Mr Hadgkiss there.

This minister wanted the attack dog on the trade union movement to be there and covered up for this officer. She knew for a year that he had recklessly misled, that he had breached the act and did nothing about it. Not only should Mr Hadgkiss have resigned today, but the minister should resign as well. She's responsible for him; she should resign; she should take responsibility for appointing someone who breached the law that he was supposed to make sure was complied with. (Time expired