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Thursday, 22 November 2012
Page: 9559

Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (15:58): I come to this debate with some experience of the relationship between the trade union movement and the Australian Labor Party. I am finding it very difficult, after listening to Senator Brandis's contribution, to see exactly how his contribution went to the issue that is before the chair. Be that as it may, there have been some great lawyers and some outstanding parliamentarians in the Senate, and I have to say, after that performance, Senator Brandis, that you have a long way to go to be deemed a great lawyer. One of the great lawyers in this Senate was former Senator the Hon. Lionel Murphy, who went on to become a High Court judge, and he knew a bit about the law. Senator Murphy, back in 1972, had something to say about the role of the Attorney-General—and we have the shadow Attorney-General here, smearing and trying to set up a kangaroo court in the Senate against the current Prime Minister. This is what Senator Murphy said at that time, when he was talking about the conduct of Senator Greenwood. Senator Greenwood was trying to put legislation through this parliament that people should be tried on the basis of their known character. Luckily enough, the Senate had the knowledge and the wisdom not to put through that from the coalition. The then shadow Attorney-General, Senator Lionel Murphy, said:

The Attorney-General must rigidly exclude party politics. The Attorney-General—

And we have Senator Brandis, who wants to be the Attorney-General—

must act in the interests of all citizens…. One of his functions—

it was a bit sexist in those days—

is to determine whether proceedings should be instituted to protect a person facing a charge from prejudicial statements. It is part of the rule of law that persons should not be made the subject of prejudicial statements before their case is tried …

And we have seen plenty of prejudicial statements here from the would-be Attorney-General, Senator Brandis.

To suggest guilt is prejudicial …

You know that.

The publication of any matter indicating bad character on his part or otherwise disparaging an accused may be prejudicial …

It is not necessary to impute guilt. To disparage is enough.

And we have had nothing but disparagement from the coalition against the Prime Minister, who is not charged with any issue. It is about impugning her character and it is about going back to where they were in the late 1960s and early 1970s, where your known character, or what they believe is your character, should affect how the law is implemented.

We should never have Senator Brandis as an Attorney-General in this country if he is so devoid of understanding of the basic principles of the law. I am not a lawyer, but I can understand what Senator the Hon. Lionel Murphy was saying when he outlined these issues. It is not necessary to impute guilt. To disparage is enough. I ask the shadow Attorney-General to think about that. Think about what you are doing, as the would-be Attorney-General of this country, standing there disparaging the Prime Minister, without any evidence, without any basis of fact—

Senator Brandis: Mr Acting Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. Senator Cameron is reflecting on me. In taking the point of order, may I point out that it follows necessarily from what he is saying that no criticism of the probity of the conduct of any member of parliament by another member of parliament in the parliament would ever be allowed.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Ludlam ): Senator Brandis, you know full well that that is a point of debate and not a point of order. Senator Cameron.

Senator CAMERON: I think that goes to the same position that Senator Brandis takes with his legal arguments—you know, misuse the processes of the Senate. It just shows again why Senator Brandis should actually go back and read what Lionel Murphy said in this place back in 1972.

I will leave that just for a minute, because I am not a lawyer. But it is actually nice being able to draw to the attention of the would-be Attorney-General of this country some of the basic principles of the law—some of the basic principles that are being trashed here. We have been through this time and again, and I would have thought someone who was standing up and foreshadowing that they wanted to be the Attorney-General of this country would have some basic understanding of the law and the principles that underpin the law.

I want to come to the proposition we have before us. It is about special relationships. No-one denies that there is a special relationship between the trade union movement and the Australian Labor Party. Why? Because the Australian Labor Party is a labour party—a party representing workers and labour in this country. It is the party that actually stood up for workers when Work Choices was foisted upon the community during the Howard government. We are a labour party. There is a special relationship. The relationship between the trade union movement and the Labor Party is a root-and-branch relationship. If we stood here every time one of the big business mates of the coalition ended up in court on an embezzlement charge, we would spend a lot of time of the Senate talking about special relationships between corrupt businessmen and the coalition. We would be doing a lot of that.

You talk about special relationships. Let's look at special relationships in the coalition. Look at the special relationships of the lobbyists, who are now becoming a huge force, working away under the surface of the Liberal Party—the lobbyists who have both offices within the Liberal Party and operate as lobbyists. Senator Brandis should know this well, because it has been a huge controversy in Queensland, where Campbell Newman has had to face accusations that lobbyists are getting special privileges in Queensland.

Just look at some of these lobbyists. If you want to talk about the Australian Financial Review and how good the Financial Review is, I would draw your attention, Senator Brandis, to Pamela Williams's two articles back on Friday, 2 November and Saturday, 3 November. She talks about a growing number of top business executives getting phone calls from Santo Santoro—

Senator Brandis: Mr Acting Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. I direct your attention to the terms of the question before the chair, which is: 'That the Senate notes the challenges for good government posed by the culture of the Australian Labor Party and its special relationship with affiliated trade unions'. I accept entirely that a degree of latitude is involved in applying the relevance test to this debate. I accept entirely that it is perfectly in order for a senator to make comparisons between his side of politics and his political opponents—but only in the context of the question before the chair. I respectfully submit that because this is a debate about the Labor Party and the trade unions, not about the Liberal Party, Senator Cameron has trespassed beyond what could be regarded as relevant.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Brandis, as you yourself observed, these debates do customarily range fairly widely. There is no point of order.

Senator CAMERON: Let us go back to the Australian Financial Review, which was quoted by Senator Brandis, and this issue of special relationships, because this debate is about special relationships. I am happy to have a discussion about the special relationships the coalition lobbyists, who have relationships with big business, have with the Liberal Party, and that is a legitimate issue here. Pamela Williams, who is a highly respected journalist, says:

It's the phone call a growing number of top business executives receive: Santo Santoro is on the line.

Santo Santoro, a former Liberal senator, is on the line. It goes on:

Santo is your man, they say, if you want something pushed in Queensland by a lobbyist …

But Santo Santoro is not just a lobbyist with rolled-gold cronies across Queensland's Liberal National Party. He is a political fund-raiser on a wider stage, too, personally backed by Opposition Leader Tony Abbott as a federal vice-president of the Liberal Party with the role of helping round up big-dollar donations for the party, ahead of the next federal election. … Which Santoro is it who lifts the phone? The political bagman for the federal Liberals, or the highly paid private lobbyist looking for a contract, who happens to be a party elder with the ear of Abbott and a speed dial in Queensland?

It says that Santoro's political lobbying business has almost tripled in size in one year, from 10 clients in July last year to 28 clients now. How has this happened? It has happened because there is a special relationship. There is a special relationship between Santo Santoro and the Liberal Party. Is there any doubt that this would be a special relationship of some note, taking up two articles in the Financial Review? Let us go to some of Santo Santoro's clients. If you see the list of clients, and then you listen to the coalition defending a number of businesses around this country, you will see that there is quite a connection between the clientele of Santo Santoro and the arguments put up here defending businesses' rights in this country.

And then we have other special relationships. We have the special relationship that Nationals Senator Barnaby Joyce and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Ms Julie Bishop, have with Gina Rinehart. An article in Crikey,whichrefers to an article in the Age, says:

… Nationals Senator Barnaby Joyce tapped the taxpayer for $2,000 last week to attend the lavish wedding of a granddaughter of an Indian billionaire engaged in delicate negotiations with iron ore matriarch Gina Rinehart to buy two of her Queensland assets.

So here we have a special relationship. We have Gina Rinehart actually flying out the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Senator Barnaby Joyce to a wedding in India. I just do not understand this, but that is what happened. Gina Rinehart was in negotiations with one of these Indian billionaires to buy two of her properties. So what is being done, according to Crikey, is that she is getting added status. She says to Senator Joyce and to Ms Bishop: 'Jump in my jet. I'll fly you out to India, and you can stand by my side and I'll look pretty good. I've got these senior politicians on my side. It'll show how important I am.'

If ever there was ever a special relationship, that is it. And what did Senator Joyce say about this massive function he went to? He said he’d 'enjoyed a brief encounter with a Bollywood actor'. He didn't get any lessons! When you see Senator Joyce in action, you know the Bollywood actor didn't give him any tips. According to the article, he described the actor as 'India’s Brad Pitt' and said, 'I must admit it was absolutely mind-blowing.' So here we have Senator Joyce out at the big shindig in India, flown out by the billionaire—a special relationship, a fantastic relationship. I do not know what he was supposed to be doing. Why would you have two coalition politicians in your jet going to an Indian billionaire's wedding? But there they were. Senator Joyce said it was mind blowing. I do not think he has ever recovered from that mind-blowing experience; it is getting worse every week! But there you go. Why would he be at this billionaire's wedding? That is a special relationship, and we will just have to wait and see where that special relationship leads us.

Another person who had a 'special relationship' was former Senator Helen Coonan. Helen went off and left here and her seat was still warm when she became a director of Kerry Packer's Crown Ltd, on the payroll of Kerry Packer. That is fine; people can do that. But you cannot simply talk about special relationships without understanding—

Senator Brandis interjecting

Senator CAMERON: You have to understand the special relationship of the coalition with all of these billionaires. You have to understand it. That is why they are in here defending the tobacco industry, the gambling industry and the healthcare industry. That is because there is a 'special relationship' between the coalition and big business. Make no mistake about it.

There are some weirder special relationships. Take Senator Mathias Cormann. What about his special relationships? Senator Cormann took a trip back in 2011 to the United States. It is on the public record. He said the purpose of the trip was to explore the United States's economic, fiscal and monetary policy and their approach to financial services and to deepen relationships in the US—it went on and on. What else did he say? He said: 'My visit to the US was an invaluable opportunity to develop contacts to draw on in the future.'

Let us see who he is drawing on. He is drawing on a mob called FreedomWorks. What are they about? They are major supporters of the Tea Party in America. That is why we see all this nonsense all the time from over the other side of the chamber. They went over at public expense to talk to all the loopy people from the Tea Party. Then they came back here and tried to behave every bit as loopily as the Tea Party in the United States. What else do FreedomWorks do? They sell high deductible insurance policies and tax-free medical savings plans to individuals at group discounts. So they are in the private health industry. They are really up to their necks in a whole range of things. One of their main funders is Philip Morris, the tobacco company. These are the types of people that Senator Cormann met over there.

Senator Brandis interjecting

Senator Cormann interjecting

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Ludlam ): Order, senators on my left! Senator Brandis was heard in silence through his contribution; Senator Cameron should be extended the same courtesy.

Senator CAMERON: FreedomWorks were also out there funding a campaign against legislation in the American House of Representatives to give rights to people who had contracted asbestos related disease— mesothelioma and that type of thing. These are the types of people that the coalition have a special relationship with. They went over there and talked to people who are trying to stop ordinary Americans getting any access to help, support and money to keep their families going after they have contracted asbestos. That is their approach.

They went to the Cato Foundation. They have a special relationship with the Cato Foundation. They have a special relationship with the Heartland Institute. They say they are a think tank. These are the climate sceptics in chief. They think that there is no global warming and no problem with the climate and it should all just be left alone. I think the Heartland Institute are crazy. I could go on. There is much more.

I have just come across this. I will keep this and I will come back some day and take you on another walk through the special relationships that the coalition have with big business, with the climate sceptics and with all the nutters in the Republican Party in the United States, and you will say, 'Why do we listen to these people?' Senator Brandis, go and read the biography of the former— (Time expired)