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Tuesday, 28 February 2012
Page: 2178

Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (17:39): This is an extraordinary debate being brought before the parliament today. It is a sorry episode in which the opposition seeks to appoint itself as the prosecution, the judge, the jury and—if they get it their way—probably the hangman as well. There are some countries where the legal systems—if you can call them legal systems—afford the government of the day the right to be the prosecutor, the judge, the jury and the hangman. Commonly, we refer to them as dictatorships. In this country we have and respect some things known as the separation of powers and the rule of law. One of the great things about the separation of powers is that we have specialist courts and tribunals whose job it is to hear and test evidence and hand down a verdict. We have specialist prosecuting agencies whose job it is to weigh up whether allegations made against an individual or organisation are worthy of bringing to court and having those allegations tested in court. We have specialist agencies whose job it is to deal with somebody if and when they are convicted of a crime. What we have in this whole passage of events from the opposition is an attempt to use the processes of parliament to afford themselves the right to override those separation of powers to somehow enter into a trial of a person and an organisation by media and by parliament and to completely circumvent the proper role of the tribunals and courts. Deputy Speaker Windsor, I know that from your long history in this House and in the New South Wales parliament you are very familiar with instances where the parliament and the media have been used to usurp the role of courts, to have tried somebody and to have had them sent to their fate only to have, in a short period thereafter, that person or those people completely vindicated by a proper investigation and testing of evidence and of law by a court—in that case, the Supreme Court of New South Wales.

Let us not go down that sorry path. Let us not go down the path of those opposite using and abusing the processes and privileges of this place to afford themselves the rights and privileges of the prosecutor, judge and jury. Some of the great things about Australia which sets us apart from many other countries in the world is that we believe in the separation of powers, in the right of somebody to be determined to be innocent until proven guilty and in the rights and responsibilities of courts and tribunals to fulfil their statutory duty to properly test allegations when they are made.

The reason that we know that this is nothing more than a political stunt is that those opposite have had contradictory positions when it comes to the investigations of the Health Services Union of Australia. In item six of this motion they are calling on the government to provide an assurance that there has been no political interference in the Fair Work investigation. That statement is one that I am sure all members of this House would be willing to agree to but when you put it alongside statements and the whole process of events that has led to this motion being brought to the House you know that they do not mean what they say. Only a few months ago, we saw those opposite calling on the government to actually actively intervene in the investigation that has been conducted by Fair Work Australia and to do that for nothing more than political reasons. We know that this is a stunt. We know that those opposite see this as an opportunity to use the processes of this place to conduct a trial by media, coming very close to defaming an individual while using the processes and privileges of this place to do and say things that they could not say or do outside the chamber. And that is nothing short of a disgrace.

I suspect that there is another reason why this motion has been brought before the House today and we saw it in the contribution made by the member immediately before me. This is nothing short of a campaign against the institution of Fair Work Australia. The contribution made by the honourable member just now sheds a light on this. The member for Farrer does not believe that Fair Work Australia is an independent institution, despite the fact that the vast majority of its members were actually appointed by the former government when it was in power. They believe that it is somehow a tainted political institution. I can tell you that it is not. It is independent and as long as there is breath in our bodies we will ensure that it remains independent. We will not be part of a long-running campaign by the industrial warriors on those opposite to try and taint, smear and dirty up Fair Work Australia for political reasons. Those opposite are like political moths to the industrial lamp. They cannot help themselves. Whenever they get the opportunity to rush out as proud Work Choices warriors, they are there with their spears in hand attacking all of those institutions. Many of them have spent 15 years attempting to tear them down. We have reinstated them and put some fair dinkum laws in place to protect the rights of workers. Those opposite are now reinstating their campaign to dirty up the institution to pave the way for a reintroduction of their Work Choices style laws and all that they stand for. We on this side of the House stand for an independent tribunal which is able to freely and fairly adjudicate based on a fair treatment of the evidence the disputes and matters that are bought before it, without interference from any of us in this place.

We reject the campaign that is being run by those opposite. We are incredibly suspicious about their motives. As I have said, the clear intent is to ensure that they are able to run a campaign to reintroduce Work Choices style laws. Everything that they can do to dirty up the institutions that have been put in place by the Fair Work Act, they will do and they will use the privileges and processes of this place to do so. We will not be hoodwinked by it.

I say once again—and I will conclude on this point—that there are countries around the world that do not believe in the separation of powers. There are countries in the world that will allow a trial by media. There have been some unfortunate passages of history in this country in which individuals have had their reputations torn down by a trial by media only for it to be found subsequently in a court of law that there was no basis for the allegations. Let us not have this happen again. Let us use the proper authorities. Let us courts and tribunals, exercising their proper rights and fulfilling their proper responsibilities, test the allegations that have been made in the proper way. Let us not go down a path on which we disrespect the importance of the separation of power, the importance of natural justice and the importance of parliament and the tribunals of this country playing their roles without the interference of one in the affairs of the other. Thank you.