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Monday, 29 February 2016
Page: 1295

Building and Construction Industry


Senator REYNOLDS (Western Australia) (14:51): My question is to the Minister for Employment, Senator Cash. Is the minister aware of any examples of bullying and intimidation on building sites in my home state of Western Australia? Do these examples include the use of threatening conduct and/or language? If so, 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) (14:51): I thank Senator Reynolds for her question. Yes, I am, and, yes, they do. In July of last year the Federal Court fined the CFMEU and its official Bradley Upton $24,000 for racially abusing a site representative on a construction site. The court described the conduct as 'disgraceful behaviour' and found that Mr Upton made 'obscene remarks' to a site representative and told another to hit him after he became agitated about the meeting room assigned for discussions with workers. Mr Upton said to a site representative: 'Is this [expletive] acceptable to you? Is this [expletive] good for you [expletive] Americans … We won’t put up with you [expletive] Americans here.' The court also found that Mr Upton's conduct was:

… deplorable particularly so for someone acting in his official capacity … The language used as well as being repeatedly obscene, had a particularly nasty racist overtone.

In relation to the CFMEU the court said:

The CFMEU has a significant record of non-compliance with the provisions of industrial legislation.

The court also said:

There is a history over a number of years of contraventions of industrial laws by CFMEU officials for whom the CFMEU is responsible and which have involved those officials, variously, in using obscene and threatening language, making threats of assaults and in some cases involving scuffles and physical altercation.

On this side of the chamber, we refuse to stand up for bullying, intimidation and thuggery on worksites in Australia.


Senator REYNOLDS (Western Australia) (14:53): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Is the minister aware of any further examples from Western Australia of senior figures in the building and construction sector who show contempt for the law?


Senator CASH (Western AustraliaMinister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service, Minister for Employment and Minister for Women) (14:53): Yes, I am. The Federal Court imposed a fine of over $35,000 on the CFMEU and Joe McDonald, who is the National President and the WA Assistant State Secretary, for making a threat against a construction company and subsequently conducting a picket with the intent to coerce the company to alter the amount to be paid to the subcontractor. The Federal Court found as follows:

Mr McDonald is a very experienced industrial relations operative. He has a significant history of failing to comply with industrial laws. There can be no suggestion that he was unaware of the unlawful nature of his actions.

In the ACT, New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia there is a pattern of behaviour. Why did the Federal Court have to say: 'Has there ever been a worse recidivist in the history of the common law?' (Time expired)


Senator REYNOLDS (Western Australia) (14:55): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Is the minister aware of any reasons which would make it difficult to condemn the behaviour that she has outlined in question time today?


Senator CASH (Western AustraliaMinister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service, Minister for Employment and Minister for Women) (14:55): Yes, I am. I think the simple reason is, as we know, that last year the CFMEU donated over $720,000 to the coffers of the Labor Party. Since 1995, the CFMEU has bankrolled the Australian Labor Party to the tune of $14 million. The CFMEU is the Labor Party's third-largest donor. I think that anybody listening would say that, with $14 million in donations from the CFMEU, it is pretty obvious why those on the other side continue day after day, despite the evidence that is presented to them—

The PRESIDENT: Pause the clock. Senator Cameron, a point of order.

Senator Cameron: My point of order is in relation to the coalition's electoral donations. We do not even know where they come from.

The PRESIDENT: That is no point of order. That is abusing the provision of points of order.





Senator CASH (Western AustraliaMinister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service, Minister for Employment and Minister for Women) (14:56): So $14 million over many years is the price that the Labor Party pay for looking the other way.

Senator Kim Carr interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Senator Carr, your colleague is waiting to ask a question.