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Thursday, 3 March 2016
Page: 1827

Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (17:07): If, as Senator Ludwig said, this is the new Greens, there is not much new. And if this is the new dynamic leadership of the Greens, well, I do not think there is going to be much dynamism from the Greens.

The Greens have brought this bill forward—the Commonwealth Electoral Amendment (Donations Reform) Bill 2014—because they were so embarrassed by the dirty deal that Senator Di Natale brokered with the coalition on electoral reform. They failed to deal with the issue of electoral reform. If anyone had an opportunity to deal with the issue of donations, they had an opportunity to actually get something out of it when this dirty deal was brokered. What did the Greens do? They rolled over, they had their tummies tickled by the coalition and they did not even mention electoral reform in the negotiations that were changing the voting system in this country. What a pathetic, weak performance by the Greens.

I notice that Senator Rhiannon led this off for the Greens. Senator Rhiannon, to her credit, has been consistently arguing this position, as has the Labor Party, for many years. Senator Rhiannon wrote an opinion piece on this issue. Unfortunately, Senator Rhiannon was not prepared to put her name to the opinion piece. She wrote it under a nom de plume. When it was discovered that she had written this opinion piece, she was monstered by the Greens leadership and had to give a public apology.

So I will not be lectured by the Greens on these issues. The Greens have a lot to answer for in respect of their lack of backbone, their lack of commitment and their lack of political understanding that when the government wants something, when the government needs something, when you negotiate with them you have an opportunity to extract some concessions. But did the Greens extract any concessions? No, they did not extract any concessions. They simply looked to see whether they could have some political advantage, and that political advantage was to make sure that when they become what Senator Di Natale wants, a mainstream party, people who have different views from the third mainstream party would never be able to form an effective electoral base. That is because the laws the Greens will have implemented mean that small groups, progressive groups in this country, will never be able to do what former Senator Bob Brown, the former leader of the Greens, did—that is, form an effective political party and get into the Senate to be able to form a base for a future political party. The Greens have slammed the door shut on that, along with the coalition.

Let's be clear: I do not agree with Senator Ludwig's description of the new Greens. I do not know that Senator Ludwig is saying that they are new. In my view, they are the pale Greens. They really are pale. Some of the Greens' supporters who I have known for years are certainly saying to me that they are extremely disappointed with the Greens, because to become a mainstream party, as Senator Di Natale wants, means that some of their progressive policies will obviously fall by the wayside. They will do more dirty deals with the coalition. One of the dirty deals I am concerned about is on penalty rates. If anyone is concerned about what the policies of the Greens are, have a look at Senator Whish-Wilson's public statements on penalty rates, where he has argued that there needs to be an assessment of penalty rates.

This is the Greens—the Greens arguing that they could actually increase their base if they can get small business to support them. The quid pro quo for small business supporting the Greens was certainly pushed out there by Senator Di Natale—that is, the destruction of penalty rates for workers in small businesses around this country. That was never my understanding of the Greens. That was never my understanding of their policies that supposedly look after workers. So this is a big issue in terms of the Greens. They are, in my view, the pale Greens. That red centre is being carved out. The red centre is gone. We know it is causing division within the Greens—that is, the Greens parliamentary party. We know it is causing division amongst their supporters. We know in some recent polls when Greens' supporters have been asked about this they have said overwhelmingly, 'We don't want to do these types of deals.'

The Greens are turning into the pale Greens. The Greens are turning into an imitation of the Australian Democrats. You watch where they go on key issues in the future. They will simply be a pale imitation of what the Greens said they stood for, and they will become more like the Australian Democrats.

I notice it in this bill, the embarrassment bill—that is what this is. This is the embarrassment bill. They were so embarrassed when it was exposed that they had caved in on electoral reform without dealing with this donation issue that they had to bring this forward. So the embarrassment bill is before the Senate today. As Senator Ludwig said—

Senator Waters: Mr Acting Deputy President, I raise a point of order. I believe the bill that the senator is referring to was actually introduced in 2014, so perhaps he might want to reflect on the fact that that was more than two years ago.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Edwards ): That is not a point of order.

Senator CAMERON: Again this shows the embarrassment that the Greens have about their total failure to deal with any political astuteness in their negotiations and their dirty deal with the coalition. I heard Senator Rhiannon earlier and Senator Di Natale talking about better government. Better government is if you can actually provide services to the Australian public, and you can provide a better society, a good society and better services to the Australian public if you tax multinational companies and large corporations effectively. But what was the last dirty deal that was done by the Greens? Again, they go in and so-called negotiate, but they walk into the government's chambers, they sit down, and they get cowed into submission. They were cowed into submission on—

Senator Simms interjecting

Senator CAMERON: The reinforcements have arrived. The volume will turn up. The Greens have called for reinforcements because Senator Cameron is on his feet carving them up for their lack of backbone, their lack of commitment, their lack of political astuteness. That is what is happening at the moment, so the reinforcements have been called in, and the volume will increase.

So what was the last dirty deal that the Greens did? Six hundred companies with a turnover of under $100 million have no need to report effectively in relation to their tax. What a dirty, rotten deal that was. And what did the Greens get in return for it? Absolutely zilch.

I am worried that the Greens have moved so far away from the watermelon Greens that have been described—green on the outside; red on the inside—that they will do a deal that will mean it will be more difficult for Australian workers to protect their penalty rates and protect their conditions. Senator Whish-Wilson has belled the cat on the Greens' position on penalty rates. He thinks there should be more flexibility. He does not think that workers who work on weekends should have penalty rates. He is out there publicly giving speeches in relation to that.

If there is one thing that workers need, it is their penalty rates. They need their penalty rates to pay their bills and look after their families. I think it is outrageous that Senator Whish-Wilson—especially a senator from Tasmania, where workers are surviving on their minimum rates, on their award rates, plus their penalty rates—a Greens senator, would be out there advocating for the destruction of penalty rates for Australian workers. How crazy it is.

On multinational taxation and on electoral reform the Greens were in a position to negotiate an effective quid pro quo for what they were looking at, and they failed abysmally. I just do not think that their leader, Senator Di Natale, or their leadership team who go and negotiate these things have the capacity to do this stuff effectively.

They say they do not want property developers; they do not want tobacco companies, and we agree; they do not want liquor companies; they do not want gambling companies; they do not want mineral resource companies; and they do not want industry representative organisations to be able to make donations. But there is no ban on multimillionaire internet entrepreneurs—no ban there.

Senator O'Sullivan: They forgot that one!

Senator CAMERON: They forgot to put that in. The biggest single donation ever to a political party in this country came from a Mr Graeme Wood, a multimillionaire internet entrepreneur worth $372 million. He gave the Greens $1.6 million. And do we hear any more bleating from the Greens about private business handing over donations? No, because they, the Greens, hold the record for the biggest single donation ever from a businessperson in this country. They also have run even better because they have got even more than the Liberals did in 2004, when Lord Michael Ashcroft—Lord Michael Ashcroft! You have to give it to the Liberal Party; when they get a donation, they get it from a lord!

Senator O'Sullivan: They do it in style.

Senator CAMERON: They do it with style. Lord Michael Ashcroft gave a million dollars in 2004 to the Liberal Party. A foreign resident chipped in a million dollars to the Liberal Party.

These are issues that just beggar belief. This pale green political party, the pale Greens of the Senate, are out there in absolute, abject embarrassment, putting up this bill because they did not have the bottle, they did not have the guts, they did not have the capacity, to deliver on this when they were negotiating in their own interests to lock other progressive political parties out of the Senate. They did not have the guts or the capacity to force changes to political donations.

I want to come back again to why it is so important to change this political donation issue. I have said on a number of occasions that in New South Wales you have got a multimillionaire property developer in Newcastle rolling up in a Bentley, opening the door so a Liberal Party MP can jump in, and handing over a brown paper bag with $10,000 in $100 notes in it to the Liberal Party MP in Newcastle. That is what is happening with the Liberals. There are trust funds established all over the country by the Liberals. There are what are called associated entities from the Liberals all over the country. These associated entities are funnelling money anonymously into the Liberal Party. We have heard much about the money that has been donated from the trade union movement to the Labor Party.

Senator O'Sullivan: Indeed.

Senator CAMERON: We say that is fine. If there is money donated from the union movement to the Labor Party, we say that is fine because it is public, it is clear where the money is coming from and the public can make a call on that.

Senator O'Sullivan: Criminal activity.

Senator CAMERON: Here we go. Senator O'Sullivan says that it is criminal activity. Senator O'Sullivan, the Australian trade union movement have been the bulwark for workers' living standards in this country. The National Party should actually be thanking the trade union movement in this country for getting decent wages and decent conditions for rural and regional workers all over Australia. Without the trade union movement there would not be penalty rates in rural and regional Australia. Without the trade union movement and the Labor Party there would not be annual leave loading and there would not be superannuation for workers—and the Liberals have opposed every move to try to give workers a decent retirement. There would not be small businesses that could survive in rural and regional Australia if penalty rates disappear. We know the arguments the Liberal Party put up on penalty rates. We know that they are out there saying that there should be more flexibility and that penalty rates should go. You can interject all you like, but I challenge the Liberal-National Party to go into rural and regional Australia and tell them the truth of your position—that you want to get rid of penalty rates, that you want workers' living standards to decline and that you want more profits for the people who are putting their hands in their pocket and donating to the Liberal Party and the National Party.

That reminds me that Senator O'Sullivan was a trustee or a director of a company called Altum Pty Ltd. It received massive donations from other nominee companies. There is money getting fed in all over the place. This is a property trust linked to the Liberal and National parties that received $430,000 in rent from Walton Construction when that company went bust, leaving small businesses all over Queensland with no money. It left small companies bankrupt everywhere. In 2009-10 the rent for this company was $105,994 from Walton. In 2010-11 it jumped to $353,000. In 2011-12 it went to $516,966. In 2012-13, when this company was starting to go broke, they still got $431,000. This is the sort of nonsense that is going on with the National Party.

You hear Senator O'Sullivan on his feet railing against the union movement and railing against union donations to the Labor Party, but he has got a lot to answer in relation to Altum Pty Ltd, a Liberal Party front that was taking money off a company that was going bust, a company that was not paying its creditors, a company that was not paying its workers and a company that left millions of dollars of devastation around this country. Senator O'Sullivan was then with Altum Pty Ltd. Transparency is needed. The National Party and the Liberal Party need to be transparent about where their money is because Labor are.