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Monday, 29 February 2016
Page: 1366


Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (20:01): I am pleased to participate in this debate on Commonwealth electoral laws. Senator Whish-Wilson's contribution certainly makes it pretty easy to focus on some of the key issues. Talk about bringing a tear to a glass eye! Certainly Senator Whish-Wilson needed the kleenex. It was suggested that Senator Faulkner was shunned by the ALP. I have never heard that proposition in my life. Senator Faulkner was strong-willed, Senator Faulkner had strong views, Senator Faulkner was extremely competent and Senator Faulkner is a Labor person, he always has been and he always will be, and he is one of the great Labor people ever in the Senate. For Senator Whish-Wilson to stand up and put this view around that somehow Senator Faulkner was shunned by his own party beggars belief.

If anyone has been acting in their own self-interest, if anyone has been looking to their own benefit, it has to be some in the Greens—some of them, not all of them, because I am sure there are big divisions in the Greens on this issue. Timing is everything in politics, and you could easily have had this debate down the track a bit; you could easily have fixed this up. But timing is all about the Greens giving a leg-up to the people they have described as devils on the other side of the chamber—people who stand totally opposed to what the Greens claim they stand for. The more I hear the new Greens leadership articulate their point of view, the more I wonder what the Greens do stand for. When you have the National Party today lauding the Greens for the great decision the Greens have made, you have to ask what is going on. We know what is going on—the Greens did a dirty deal, and they did the deal on the cheap. Every time I hear someone from the Greens talk about democracy, I always think about the lost opportunities that the Greens have given up. I was a union official for 27 years. I was used to bargaining, I was used to negotiating, and I used to walk into some companies and I knew a soft touch when I saw one. I knew when someone was not a good negotiator, I knew when someone just was not tough, I knew when someone would basically capitulate with a bit of pressure. Every time I look at the Greens I think about those bosses that I had to deal with—those bosses who were weak, those bosses who had no backbone, those bosses who were not clever enough to understand the dynamics of a bargaining process. That is exactly what the Greens are like. They have just done a deal on the cheap.

The Greens have made three big calls in my time in the Senate. One was on carbon trading, where they took this pure position whereby nothing that Labor put-up was ever going to be good enough, and if we had had a carbon trading scheme come in when Labor proposed it first up, under the Rudd government, we would have a carbon trading scheme cemented in and operating now. But the Greens in their purity, the Greens in their naivety, the Greens in their stupidity on these issues, just gave the game away—they just gave up. The second area where they proved to be really incompetent was on tax transparency. Again there was an opportunity. If only the Greens had had some backbone, if only they had had some capacity to negotiate and understand that you just do not give in as soon as someone stares you down, then we could have had a better tax transparency deal.

We could have had those 500 to 600 companies that are not subject to any tax transparency caught in the tax transparency net. But the Greens and this new approach, where they want to be mainstream but they cannot actually negotiate—they do not understand the dynamics of a negotiation—went in to the coalition and the coalition looked at them, took their play lunch off them and sent them packing, and they got nothing out of it. We end up with about 500 to 600 companies with no tax transparency because the Greens did not have either the intellectual capacity or the heart to stand up to the coalition. That is exactly what happened on the tax transparency deal. If people rely on the Greens in the future to be the brokers of anything, people have to understand that they are weak, inexperienced and will give in. Their play lunch will be taken off them every day of the week when they are sitting down with the coalition.

We come to the last one, electoral reform—the third big cave-in by the Greens. How cheaply can you give things up? How cheaply can you give away your principles? That is exactly what the Greens have done here. They had on electoral reform the opportunity to deal with the issue of electoral donations, to get some decent democracy in the place. We hear lots about democracy. Democracy is being trampled with electoral funding rorts by the coalition and the Greens had an opportunity to do something about it. What happened? They went to water again. They do not understand the dynamics. They do not understand the long-term issues and they give up. The Greens are reeling. Dirty deals done cheap. That is exactly what they are. They do the deals cheap and they cannot get much out of it.

Look at those three areas: carbon pricing, where their purity got in the way of getting a carbon pricing system in this country; tax transparency, where they did not have the bottle, did not have the intellect and did not have the guts—they did not have the negotiating capacity to stand up to the coalition and they gave in—another dirty deal done cheap; and on electoral reform they did not even go near the thing that is trampling democracy, the use of money in this country to fund the coalition. Money is distorting electoral outcomes. Did the Greens deal that? No. They did not go near it. Did the Greens actually stand up for real democracy? No. They did another dirty deal and they did it cheap.

Senator O'Sullivan interjecting

Senator CAMERON: I have just heard the National Party being mentioned. The National Party should not be voicing their opinion on any of this stuff when we talk about democracy. They are out there pork-barrelling as hard as they can. They are in there with a weak Prime Minister who cannot stand up to anyone, who is getting pulled left and right, up and down, front and centre, a Prime Minister who does not know what he stands for. All he wanted was to get into the prime ministerial position, and that is all he cared about. We see the Nationals in there, tearing strips out of the public finances because they want to pork barrel in their electorates.

The Greens could actually have done something about this but, because they did not understand the dynamics and did not have the capacity to negotiate, they simply gave up. Who are we dealing with when we are dealing with the coalition? We are dealing with a Prime Minister who in the 2014-15 budget said that he supported every aspect of the budget. There was the ripping away of pensions. Pensioners would have been $80 a week worse off over time with that dirty deal that was put through the budget in 2014. That was a problem. Changes to the disability support pension meant people would be moved either to Newstart or to youth allowance and would be $214 a week worse off. We had $80 billion to be taken out of health and education. We had Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders losing $493.7 million over the forward estimates. These are the types of things that the Greens claim that they stand against. They might claim they stand against them but, when they get an opportunity to do something about them, they do not have the backbone to stand up against them. It must be dead easy for the ministers on the other side. They must sit around and go, 'The Greens are coming to negotiate.' They have a little bit of a giggle and a laugh. They just say, 'Stand firm. Don’t budge. The Greens will capitulate.' That is exactly what happens. The Greens capitulate on the issues.

Senator Whish-Wilson gets up here and starts his talks about what is good for democracy. Surely it would be good for democracy if in this country there was a price on the carbon polluters that you guys let off the hook. Surely, it would be good for democracy if we had tax transparency and the big end of town were paying their fair share in tax. That would have been good. Surely that is something that you would have liked to go back and tell your branches—if you have them; I do not know what you have in the Greens—your rank-and-file members, 'We actually got something out of the coalition.' But you do not get anything; you caved in. You just caved in. Hopeless. You should have been able to go back to the rank and file and say, 'We didn't just get 281 companies to be transparent; we actually got nearly 800, 900.' Did they do that? No, they did not. The Greens just caved in.

With this bill on electoral reform, the Greens really had the opportunity to negotiate a good outcome for democracy, and a good outcome for democracy would have been getting more transparency in electoral funding. Did anybody in the Greens think, when they were in there talking about democracy, that they might have raised what happened in Newcastle, where a Liberal MP got into the front seat of a Bentley with a local multimillionaire and got handed $10,000 in $100 bills, a clear breach of the electoral laws in New South Wales? Didn't they think that they could have at least said, 'Let's deal with these issues; let's link electoral corruption to the issue of democracy'? No, they did not do it. They just caved in, because they do not have either the heart or the intelligence to deal with these issues.

Labor is very concerned about transparency in terms of electoral laws, and it is not just about the Senate election laws; it goes much wider. If you are going to deal with one little aspect and you are not prepared to even put in a decent system of changes for the Senate election laws and you give in on that, there is really not much point in going down the track of dealing with the wider issues.

Electoral rorts in this country have been huge under the coalition, absolutely huge—

Senator O'Sullivan: What about union corruption?

Senator CAMERON: Senator O'Sullivan just cannot keep quiet for two minutes. He has to come in and say it is all the fault of the unions; the unions are the problem. Well, I can tell you that donations from the trade union movement to the Labor Party are transparent. You know where the money has come from—

Senator O'Sullivan: From crime.

Senator CAMERON: you know who has given the money, you know when it has come in—

Senator O'Sullivan: It's from the proceeds of crime.

Senator CAMERON: and Labor declare every donation above $1,000—

Senator O'Sullivan: Proceeds of crime.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Edwards ): Order!

Senator CAMERON: not like you lot over there. You only have to look at some of the rorts that go on. There is Platinum Forum, registered in Victoria. They received over $1 million, but no donations over $12,800 were declared. Where is the money? Who is providing this $1 million? We know who it is; it is the white-shoe brigade. It is those people that want a bigger GST imposed on ordinary Australians. It is those people that want access to tax rip-offs at the expense of ordinary working people. That is who is providing this money. Then there is a mob called Parakeelia Pty Ltd. They received $932,000, but only declared receipts of $43,000 to the ATO. Where did that money come from?

How dare the Liberal and National parties talk about the trade union movement—good, honest workers—providing support to the ALP? How dare you criticise those donations when you have all these secret slush funds all over the country, and money getting handed over in the front seat of a Bentley up in Newcastle? What an outrageous mob you are.

There are more: the Liberal club in Western Australia received $830,000, but there was only $48,000 in declared donations; and the Kooyong 200 Club, $444,720 in donations and only $50,000 disclosed. It goes on and on. There are pages and pages and pages of this stuff.

There are all these little trust funds and rorts getting set up all over the country by the Liberal Party—set up all over the country by these people. Yet they have the gall and the hide to say that ordinary Australians, decent Australians, who are members of trade unions and want to support the Labor Party are doing something wrong. What a bloody joke. What an absolute joke from you mob, when you have all these rorts going on.

And the Greens should have stood up against these rorts. The Greens should have been saying, 'We can fix this because we've got a negotiating position here. We can not only negotiate something decent for electoral reform but get funding reform as well.' But they were too short sighted, they were too weak. They just were not capable of taking that on in the long term.

Senator Kim Carr: Too greedy.

Senator CAMERON: Too greedy—yes, that's the word. There is all this fundraising that goes on, like the mafia fundraising in Victoria in support of Liberal politicians. That could have been dealt with. The mafia is in there supporting Liberal politicians financially. Why didn't you deal with that? Why didn't you deal with that when you had the chance? Because you were just too weak and incapable of doing it. Here are some headlines: 'Key Liberal fundraising body took mafia money for access', in The Sydney Morning Herald on 30 June 2015; 'Prominent Liberal donor investigated over bribery claim'; 'Donations disclosure reveals murky deal for Country Liberals'. On and on it goes. But, when the Greens had an opportunity to deal with this, you just did not have the bottle to do it. The National Party and the Liberal Party stood over you and you caved in. (Time expired)