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Thursday, 1 December 2022
Page: 2789


Senator McKENZIE (VictoriaLeader of the Nationals in the Senate) (20:02): As the shadow minister for infrastructure, transport and regional development in this place, I rise to speak to the opposition amendments moved by Senator Cash. I'm very, very concerned, as the shadow minister responsible for building things and holding this government to account for building things—hopefully only for three years, Senator Gallagher, but we'll see how we go—that the abolition of the ABCC alone will add to delay and increase the costs of infrastructure projects right across the country. We know the Master Builders commissioned a study from Ernst & Young, and the cost was calculated to be in excess of $47.5 billion to 2030. That money could build a lot of hospitals, a lot of schools. I know that money represents a lot of infrastructure not just in capital cities but right across rural and regional communities, many of them being rebuilt after devastating floods. It will be state and federal governments that will have to do the heavy lifting when it comes to constructing and rebuilding, and we'll have the infrastructure investment pipeline impacted by that amount of money over the next eight years simply because the Labor Party has an ideological bent on removing the ABCC.

I remember as a young backbencher—well, we'll say younger backbencher—in this place on the employment committee, we would have Nigel Hadgkiss in front of us, telling us of the horrific behaviour on construction sites across the country, day in, day out, by the CFMEU, or the construction division. I'm not going to bag out the whole CFMEU. I quite like the forestry division. I find myself often on the same side as Mr Michael O'Connor, and, Raff, you and I join hands and fight against our own Premier.

The TEMPORARY CHAIR: Senator McKenzie.

Senator McKENZIE: Through you, Madam Chair. We often find ourselves on the same side of an argument, standing up for the most renewable, sustainable primary industry in this country. It is our forestry industry. It's not the forestry division I have a problem with; it is the construction division. And it's not just me.

We want to talk about poor culture in workplaces. We want to talk about poor culture in organisations. The negative, sexist, bullying culture of the construction division ain't a new thing, let's face it. I come from Victoria. I'm old enough to remember the BLF. We we've seen this all before. I find it passing strange that both the Greens and the Labor party who, again, talk a big game on the treatment of women—you talk a big game, you want respect in your workplace, but only for certain women in certain workplaces, not for all women and all workplaces. If you did actually believe that, you would keep in place the organisation that keeps a union like the CFMMEU to account.

Again, it's not for nothing that that's the union and the division of the CFMMEU that has a lot of court proceedings. It's had a lot of negative judgement calls—and not by the Liberal Party, not by the IPA, not by the National Party, but by courts, the judiciary in the country. So for you to make it the first thing you guys just can't wait to get done before Christmas is to give John Setka a huge merry Christmas. Sally McManus, put the jingle bell on it. Merry Christmas, McManus, you're going to get your IR reform. By abolishing the ABCC, you are going to allow that negative, sexist culture back into construction sites across the country.

You can carve it out of your multi-employer bargaining, but you're not going to change a thing for the women who might actually want to participate in this hypermasculine industry. Another thing we often hear from those opposite is them arguing and lecturing us on hypermasculine workplaces: 'Why don't you get some quotas to get some more chicks on your site?' After the Victorian election, I'm very proud to say of the National Party, the most conservative party in this place, that 50 per cent of our parliamentarians, state and federal, are women, and not a quota girl amongst us. You talk a big game, but this was actually an organisation that would assist to make the construction industry safer for women to participate—to be chippies, concreters, plumbers or sparkies.

That's not really what you're interested in, is it? You're not really interested in young women having a safe, successful prosperous career in the construction industry. You're actually more interested in ensuring the negative culture that has pervaded that industry for so long is continued. Of all the ideologically driven decisions, the abolition of the ABCC just beggars belief. As I said, it's because it's working. The millions of dollars those guys are having to pay and the judgements from our courts are actually proof point that the construction division of that union is still not ready to accept men and women working in the same place and treating each other with respect. It's that simple.

I also wanted, in the time left to me—thank you for putting the clock on, Senator Hanson-Young—to contribute briefly on small business. I represent rural and regional communities. They are the backbone of our communities. I'm not here to represent big business. Again, it's passing strange that this will make it easier for big business to do big deals with big unions. It's all very neatly wrapped up with a lovely bow, isn't it? You know who gets screwed over? Millions of small business owners, their workers—

The TEMPORARY CHAIR ( Senator Bilyk ): Can you say screwed over?

Senator McKENZIE: That's probably unparliamentary. I will withdraw that without even being asked.

The TEMPORARY CHAIR: Thank you.

Senator McKENZIE: But it's true. It is absolutely true what will happen, because they don't care about small businesses. They think a small business has 15 employees. Senator Pocock thinks a small business has 20 employees. That's not even a cafe in a country town, let alone the pub, let alone the hardware store. I mean, honestly; you need to get out of your capital cities and come out into the suburbs, come out into the working towns across this nation. Your small-business minister, when questioned on this in the other place, couldn't even name a small business that she'd sat down and had a conversation with. How offensive that is with the legislation you're bringing in that is going to severely impact their future prosperity, the prosperity of their families, their stress levels—because they don't have a HR department.

You don't care, because this legislation isn't really about small businesses, their families and the mortgages that they have on houses to actually keep their businesses going; it's about making sure you pay back in spades—I am sure they will be very grateful—the big unions who delivered you the election you desired, who have funded the Labor party's election campaigns. This is a very sweetheart deal for the unions, but it will have severe and significant consequences.

I want to reiterate Senator Cash's comments. We are the chamber of review. It is actually our job to come in here and put on the record the questions of the people who can't be here. I stand here representing rural and regional small businesses, construction businesses. It is my job to ask you questions. It is my job to hold you to account. It might be a little annoying, but on our big fat salaries in this place we have to sit a little late sometimes when we're radically, fundamentally changing our industrial relations system without a mandate. We're just doing our job, and we want to make sure small businesses and their workers can continue to do theirs.