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Wednesday, 24 June 2009
Page: 4160

Senator ABETZ (3:07 PM) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Employment Participation (Senator Arbib) to a question without notice asked by Senator Fisher today relating to the Australian Building and Construction Commission.

I want the Senate to take note of the dissembling, inept answer given by Senator Arbib to the excellent question without notice asked by Senator Fisher today, relating to the Australian Building and Construction Commission. Let us be absolutely clear on this: when the minister was asked, he had the audacity to say, publicly broadcasting, that this is an implementation of Labor’s policy honouring their election promise. In case the honourable minister has not read Labor’s Forward with Fairness policy announced in August 2007, on page 24 his leader and deputy leader said this to the Australian people:

The current Australian Building and Construction Commission arrangements will remain in place until the 31st of January 2010. Specifically the ABCC will retain all its current powers and its full resources for this period, as outlined in the forward budget estimates.

How can he come into this chamber and then say that neutering this organisation a full six months earlier, in breach of his election promise, is somehow honouring the Labor Party’s election promise to the Australian people?

This is another gross example of the Australian Labor Party’s spin. You promise one thing before the election and you then do something completely different afterwards. Remember the words of the member for Kingsford Smith, Mr Peter Garrett? Exactly what he said would happen is now happening yet again. Indeed, this election promise was made when ‘Hi, I’m Kevin from Queensland’ was an economic conservative. Today, ‘Hi, I’m Kevin from Queensland’ is no longer the economic conservative. He is no longer the person that said to the Australian people: ‘We need a cop on the beat. We need to keep the construction industry clean.’ That was the big, solemn promise made to the Australian people and it is now completely gutted. In the other place the minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, has now tabled a document which is her letter to the Hon. John Lloyd, which I would seek leave to table in relation to this debate.

Leave granted.

Senator ABETZ —I thank the Senate. It is quite clear that this has been a breach. So the Minister for Employment Participation had to come into this place and say why he has broken this election promise six months early. Were there industry demands for this change? No, there were not. Is there an economic imperative for this change? No, there is not. Is there a jobs imperative for this? No, there is not. But is there a union imperative? You betcha. And that is the only reason that it is being done. And another: is it an ideological imperative? You betcha. You’ve got it again. So, despite a solemn promise to the Australian people, that is out the door in favour of increased trade union power and in favour of their extreme ideology in relation to the Australian building unions.

It is very interesting, isn’t it, that this gentleman from Queensland said: ‘Hi, I’m Kevin from Queensland. I’m an economic conservative.’ But today in 2009 he says: ‘Hi, I’m Kevin from the unions. Those bonza blokes gave a fair shake of the sauce bottle to our funds for the election campaign and we now owe them and we owe them big-time, and that is why we will break our promise in exchange for the funding that we got from them.’ It is funny, isn’t it? Who will benefit from Mr Kevin Rudd’s change in relation to this? Another Kevin, Kevin Reynolds from Western Australia, and another Kevin, from our home state of Tasmania, Kevin Harkins. These three Kevins are peas in a trade union pod assisting trade union extremism. The minister has shown that Labor have broken an election promise and they stand condemned for it.