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Wednesday, 13 September 2017
Page: 7166


Senator REYNOLDS (Western Australia) (15:41): First of all, I would like to commend Senator Sterle for his comments on the importance of coal as an energy mix here in Australia and the importance of it to our state of Western Australia and also to the many thousands of workers in that industry. But I would now like to take note of the answers to questions on industrial relations by the Minister for Employment. Listening to Senator Cameron, I just could not help but think it was, again, the height of hypocrisy from Senator Cameron. The unions he is still defending talk about the big end of town, but they are now the big end of town. They get hundreds of millions of dollars from industry super funds, and I'm almost certain that most people who contribute to industry funds do not realise how much of their money goes through to unions. In fact, union membership is declining so much. I understand there is only 10 per cent membership in private companies. So the unions really don't need their members anymore for their financial future, because they're getting far more money annually from super funds. There is a compounding tragedy. We hear how they're using the money. I'm certain that neither union members nor super fund contributors to industry funds realise where some of the funds are being used—to actually pay the fines, I suspect, of those who breach the law and are repeatedly fined for misconduct and unlawful behaviour. I am certain that most, if not all, union members and super fund contributors would be aghast at that.

Let's look at the latest performance. What we heard today is that the CFMEU—a serial offender—has been handed unprecedented penalties for its concerted campaign of industrial lawlessness at Barangaroo. The CFMEU national branch, the New South Wales branch and multiple union CFMEU officials have been ordered by the courts to pay $2.4 million in fines. I ask Australian union members of the CFMEU, in particular, and any of the contributing super funds: who is actually paying these fines? I think we all know what the answer to that is. The Minister for Employment, Senator Michaelia Cash, said that the lawless industrial strikes involved over a thousand workers and again demonstrates the utter disregard that the CFMEU, in particular, has for the law.

It was very interesting to read Justice Flick's judgement today because it highlights the hypocrisy of those opposite and particularly those who keep defending and supporting the actions of the CFMEU. This is what Justice Flick found today. He said:

It is difficult, if not impossible, to envisage any worse conduct than that pursued by the CFMEU ...

He went on to say:

The CFMEU assumes a prominent role in the industrial affairs of this country and has consistently exhibited a contempt for compliance with the law.

Again, that is at the expense of their members. The CFMEU, he went on to say:

… has long demonstrated by its conduct that it pays but little regard to compliance with the law and indeed has repeatedly sought to place itself above the law.

No wonder, when they have access to their members' fees to pay their fines and also, quite possibly, the money from those who contribute to industry super funds. He went on to say:

It is difficult to perceive how such conduct can be regarded as in the best interests of the bulk of its members and the workers it supposedly represents.

That's not us on this side of the chamber saying that; it is Justice Flick. He also said:

Such conduct may promote the CFMEU as a "militant" union. But the constraints imposed by the law apply to all - including the CFMEU—

who clearly have not got the message yet.

In addition to issuing unprecedented penalties, Justice Flick also referred union officials Brian Parker and Luke Collier—who we've heard of many times in this chamber, and who have been defended by Senator Cameron over and over again—to the DPP for possible criminal prosecution for allegedly giving false testimony during the proceedings. What a surprise—a CFMEU member giving false testimony during proceedings! There's a shocker! Justice Flick also ordered the CFMEU to pay for prominent advertising in Sydney's major newspapers to ensure that the public and, importantly, CFMEU members are made aware of the illegal actions, and the financial consequences for them. (Time expired)