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Monday, 29 February 2016
Page: 1289

Building and Construction Industry

Senator McKENZIE (Victoria) (14:30): Mr President. I also have a question for the Minister for Employment, Senator Cash. Is the minister aware of any examples of behaviour in my home state of Victoria which highlight a culture of intimidation in the construction sector? Do those examples include the use of threatening conduct or language? What was that conduct or language?

Senator CASH (Western AustraliaMinister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service, Minister for Employment and Minister for Women) (14:31): I do not know about you, but it continues to amaze me that those on the other side—even when they hear the answers to the questions and the filthy behaviour that has been engaged in—continue to run cover for these types of people. They refuse to condemn them. I honestly ask you, how do you sleep at night?

Look at CFMEU state secretary John Setka. John Setka threatens public servants at the ABCC, saying:

… just remember one thing, when this is all over, and they don't exist any more … we'll remember them because we know every—


one of them. We will never forget them.

Then there was a flyer, which we heard about at Senate estimates, that was circulated on construction sites in Melbourne. This is what it said to the workers:

To all the dogs out there, remember when you pick up the phone to the ABCC rats, we will know about it, and who will protect you when the rats can't even protect themselves?

Do you know what they put on the back of those flyers? They put the personal details of inspectors, including home addresses, phone numbers, where they went on holidays and the names of their spouses.

But those on the other side have the audacity to come into this place, stand up and say they do condemn this type of behaviour. Look in the mirror; look at this type of behaviour. If it was undertaken in any other workplace in Australia, quite frankly, criminal charges would be brought against you in breach of safety legislation. But those on the other side, hypocrites as they are, can only feign outrage at the language that is used in the Senate.

Senator Cameron: All the Oscars have been awarded!

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order on my left and right.

Senator McKENZIE (Victoria) (14:33): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Is the minister aware of any other examples from Victoria which highlight that certain officials have contempt for the law?

Senator CASH (Western AustraliaMinister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service, Minister for Employment and Minister for Women) (14:34): I will pick up on Senator Cameron's interjection that all the Oscars have been awarded. Senator Cameron, unfortunately this is not a show; it is not a game. This is real life behaviour on construction sites in Australia, and you sit there and you give a thumbs up to this type of behaviour. Quite frankly, you are a disgrace when you stand there and you do not condemn this type of behaviour.

Senator Wong: Mr President, on a point of order: the minister just suggested that Senator Cameron gave a thumbs up to this behaviour. That is inaccurate. It is inaccurate, it is offensive and it ought to be withdrawn.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Wong, you have now clarified that aspect, so I do not think that any further comment needs to be made about it.

Senator CASH: Well, if those on the other side do not find this behaviour offensive—

Senator Wong interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! I do not want have backchatting to the chair by anyone, but you highlighted the imputation and it has now been highlighted. There is no further need to discuss it any further. You have highlighted the fact that it was incorrect.

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: I am sorry, I am not going to enter into debate about this.

Senator Wong: I requested a withdrawal. You ignored it.

The PRESIDENT: No, I am not ignoring that at all. I do not want to enter into debate with anyone. You have highlighted the fact that that was not correct, and that is now highlighted on the Hansard. This is question time. I am not going to go into debate about everything unless there is disorder.

Senator CASH: As I said, even if those on the other side will not condemned this vile behaviour, the Federal Court certainly did, fining the CFMEU—following its blockade of the Grocon site—a record $1.2 million for contempt of court, plus a further $151,000 for breaching workplace laws. The Federal Court found the officials behaviour:

… bespeak a deplorable attitude, on the part of the CFMEU, to its legal obligations …

Senator McKENZIE (Victoria) (14:36): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Is the minister aware of any specific examples of behaviour carried out by senior figures in the construction sector which should be condemned by all Australians?

Senator CASH (Western AustraliaMinister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service, Minister for Employment and Minister for Women) (14:36): Again, unfortunately, yes, I am. The behaviour should be condemned by all Australians. Information sheets with inspectors' personal details, which have been circulated on building sites, have been used for deplorable reasons. At Senate estimates, it has been revealed that female building inspector received a series of unsolicited and unwelcome phone calls from the Victorian assistant secretary, Shaun Reardon. The inspector also received a call in which an anonymous individual said that he and seven other men were going to come around to her house and gang-rape her. This is the type of behaviour, regardless of which side of the chamber you are on, regardless of whether or not you have or have not been a member of a union, or the CFMEU, that you should condemn because the effect it has on these people is disgraceful.

The PRESIDENT: Order! Order on my left! I have just taken advice from the Clerk in relation to the point of order raised by Senator Wong. In relation to that advice, I did not understand exactly what Senator Wong was asking. She was asking for the minister to withdraw the imputation. I thought you had cleared the record, Senator Wong, and the Clerk has advised me that, yes, it is an imputation on a senator. So minister, can I ask you to withdraw that imputation.

Senator CASH: Thank you, Mr President, I withdraw.

The PRESIDENT: Thank you, Minister, and I apologise for the confusion.