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Monday, 26 February 2018
Page: 2002

Mr CHAMPION (Wakefield) (18:57): Unfortunately, we're going to get a second edition of the member for Fisher's speech. He spent such little time debating the actual premise of the member for Moreton's very good motion. This is a simple thing. The government have overstepped the mark. They're so hostile to the concept of workers' rights and so hostile to the concept of unionism that they've now completely overstepped the mark, jumped the shark and crossed into a place where they deny their own rhetoric. Time and time again, we're told that the government believes in free speech. We're lectured in the pages of The Australian and we're lectured in this parliament—

Mr Perrett: The IPA.

Mr CHAMPION: And we're lectured by the IPA and other organisations about how they cherish free speech, how it's part of their moral code, how important it is to have this fundamental tenet of Western civilisation upheld in this country and how, if anybody dares to have an objection to freedom of speech, they're somehow snowflakes or the like. Yet, if you take a flag—a flag that's been around for our entire history which celebrates our values of liberty, justice, mateship and democracy—onto a building site, you'll then lose your job, probably lose a contract and probably be dragged through the courts and fined. And it won't be some union official; it'll be a worker—a worker who takes this book onto a worksite.

If a worker took this book by Peter Fitzsimons onto a worksite, he'd probably be in breach of the code. How ridiculous. He'd be sitting there reading the book in his lunchroom, and he'd probably be in breach of the code, because here it is. There's a flag of Eureka. That's how ridiculous the government's got in its hostility to workers and its determination to basically outlaw unionism. When the ACTU, quite rightly, says, 'Change the rules,' that's because the rules are loaded for anybody who wants to organise, for anybody who wants to join a union and for anybody who wants to exercise a right to strike. There isn't really a right to strike left in this country. There isn't really a right to free speech in this country on building worksites.

If the honourable member wants an example of how unfair these laws are, look at the case of Ark Tribe. Ark Tribe was just a rigger in my electorate. All he wanted was a safe worksite, and he was dragged through the courts. He was dragged through the Federal Court, which is a very expensive jurisdiction for a worker to go through, with very high legal fees. He was dragged through those courts over and over again by the ABCC and its forerunner and put under immense stress. All he was was a rigger from Middle Beach who wanted a safe worksite. That's all he wanted. And yet what happened to him is an illustration of what this government wants to do to the union movement, writ large.

The honourable member for Moreton comes into this place with a completely legitimate proposition about this flag, which has stood for decent Australian values for years and years and years, which is the flag of the workers, which is a flag of the union movement, which is a flag of many right-thinking Australians—and it could be the flag of those opposite too, if they sought to look at the traditions. It could equally be seen to be small businessmen revolting against the tyranny of unfair licences. All of those miners were basically prospectors at the time. There is a contrary conservative tradition here. But it does celebrate a basic Australian idea of dignity at work, of being able to say, 'Enough's enough,' and being able to say, 'That's unreasonable.'

And those opposite refuse to realise the damage they're doing to this country's democratic traditions. They refuse to acknowledge that in saying to a country that you can ban a flag, or ban an idea, or ban freedom of thought or freedom of association on worksites, you can do it anywhere. It's a very dangerous proposition to introduce to this place. It's a very dangerous proposition to introduce to a nation. I urge those opposite just to think carefully about what they're doing here and think about whether it really does accord with their traditions and their ideas about what this country should represent.