Bills - Building and Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Bill 2013 - In Committee

Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (19:08): I did want to contribute to this important amendment, but before I do that can I just respond—this is a debate—to Senator Cameron. What did he call me? A 'right-wing ideologue'? Well, I have always classed myself in the moderate wing of the Liberal Party—not that we have factions within the Liberal Party. But I have always classed myself on the Left of the party. Now, I am fortunate that a lot of the things that some of my other colleagues raise I agree with, because we do not have these rigid factions like the Labor Party or the Greens political party. We are a party for all people.

I just wonder what Senator Cameron is on about. That was a 15-minute filibuster. He said about 15 times that he wanted to vote on the bill, but he kept talking for 15 minutes on a fairly simple amendment. But for some reason, Senator Cameron went off onto the ABC, South Australia and Pauline Hanson—and I can see Senator Xenophon trembling in his boots as a result of his vicious attack on him, saying that Pauline Hanson is more effective. That was a real killer, Senator Cameron!

Can I just say in relation to the ABC—Senator Cameron has been speaking about it; I was not going to, but this is a debate and he has raised the issue—that I wonder what Senator Cameron has against Sky News, when we have Peter Beattie, the former Labor Premier of Queensland, on Sky News? We have Graham Richardson, who I had the misfortune to be in this chamber with for a number of years many centuries ago. I know Richo, and I know what he is like. You should love him, Senator Cameron—although I suspect he was in the other faction to you.

And what about that respected former leader of the Labor Party, Mr Latham? He is on Sky News regularly. He was a revered leader of the Labor Party and we all think he is pretty good these days, actually! We agree with you Labor Party people! You are right with Mr Latham; he is quite an impressive fellow. And Kristina Keneally—I think she was a wonderful leader in New South Wales. I do not understand why the Labor Party dumped her. Why did they execute Kristina Keneally? I thought she was one of the best premiers that the Labor Party had had in New South Wales for a long period of time and yet the Labor Party got rid of her.

These people are all people on Sky News, and I do not understand what Senator Cameron has against all those Labor luminaries, unless it is of course that they are in a different faction to him—unless they are not in the CFMEU faction that I think Senator Cameron is in, and certainly Senator Wong is in.

On the issue of the ABC board going out into regional and rural Queensland, remote from the capital cities: I think it is a wonderful idea. I love the ABC. Can I just say that I love the ABC in regional Australia. They are doing what they are supposed to do by their charter, and I congratulate the communications minister for overseeing such a wonderful organisation in country and rural Australia. ABC Rural does not always agree with me—they do not always run me—but they are at least balanced. And I cannot say the same for what comes out of Ultimo.

I had the misfortune on Sunday morning to be riding my bike around and I had my earphones in—they were on ABC NewsRadio and they were broadcasting Insiders. I was too intent on my bike ride to stop and take the earphones out so I had to listen to it. It is the first time I have heard Insiders for about 10 years. I refuse to listen to it because if I want to hear that sort of stuff I will go along to the local ALP branch meeting. As I said on my Facebook page, the greatest thing about Insiders is that it means that Labor Party people do not have to go to a branch meeting on Sunday morning; they just turn on Insiders. They get all the info from the ALP and they get all the bias—the balanced board they always have! The bloke that runs that—wasn't he a former Labor Party staffer? Is that right? That Barrie Cassidy?

As I said, I do not bother. I would not listen to it normally, but I was forced to listen to it on Sunday morning and it has not changed in 10 years. It is just the Ultimo branch of the ALP, spewing out all the ALP lines all the time. At least on Sky News we get a little—is Bolt on Sky News? I do not watch it—

Senator Paterson: It is.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: So we get Bolt on Sky News. That is one side, and then on the other side we get Beattie, Keneally, Latham and all those Labor luminaries. At least on Sky there is a little bit of balance, but on the ABC it is just wall-to-wall Labor Party and lefty journalists who are renowned for their support for the ALP. If the ABC were to go out into non-Ultimo Australia, they would realise that there is a whole new world out there. The board would benefit from the views of people in other parts of Australia about the ABC and the one-sided approach they have. Someone mentioned Four Corners before. Four Cornershave done some good work at times, but usually they do not. I remember that, as minister for forestry, we had occasion to call them to order. I know that has happened a couple of times since, including that disgraceful program trying to destroy the Tasmanian salmon industry. I know Senator Bilyk would have been appalled at that. I am sure you would have complained to the ABC in your state, Senator Bilyk, because they were trying to destroy one of the major industries of Tasmania.

Senator Bilyk interjecting

Senator IAN MACDONALD: You did complain? I am sure you would have, Senator Bilyk. Thanks for confirming that. It is important that all Tasmanian senators—and I know Senator Lambie would have too, and I am sure even Senator McKim might have been able to avoid his bias—

An honourable senator interjecting

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Look, when you are dealing with the salmon industry in Tasmania, that is Tasmania. That program was so inaccurate, so vicious and so biased that even Senator McKim would have been unhappy with it. Ten or 15 years ago they did the same thing with forestry, and were forced to apologise.

Unfortunately, someone mentioned earlier that it is my birthday. Yesterday, Senator Cameron and Senator McKim referred to me 95 times in debate—my staff counted this up. I think they must like me or something.

A government senator: You are very popular.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: I am only very popular with the Labor Party and the Greens, I have to say! But thanks for thinking about me and talking about me so often. I have my staff counting again today. I think today we are up to about 73, and the day is not anywhere near finished. I really find that very flattering, so thank you to the Labor Party and the Greens for your constant references to me.

Now, unlike Senator Cameron, I want to talk about the amendment before the chair. The amendment before the chair is about reverse onus of proof. Unlike members of the Labor Party, in our party we have a free voice. We are not lobotomised zombies—as some prominent Labor person referred to the ALP caucus; I do not want to mention names—when it comes to policy discussions. In our party, if we feel strongly enough about a matter we can cross the floor. We can certainly talk about it in our party room. There were a couple of issues about superannuation—I do not want to give away what is said in our party room—where I did say to the Treasurer, 'If these retrospective elements go through, you'll find me on the other side of the chamber, even if I am the only one.' And we are allowed to do that. Fortunately, it did not come to that, because there were amendments made that did away with the retrospective elements that I was concerned about. But we are allowed to do that in our party, and we do have these robust policy discussions in our party and in our backbench policy committees. We do not just sit there like lobotomised zombies and put a hand up when the Prime Minister says, 'Nod'. We do not do that in our party.

An opposition senator interjecting

Senator IAN MACDONALD: I am getting to the reverse onus of proof. When I saw this in this legislation, I was concerned. I do not like reverse onus of proof. In some matters it is essential. With some security issues, it is unavoidable.

Senator Di Natale interjecting

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Senator Di Natale, we have been in various committee hearings looking at legislation, particularly in relation to security matters, and I think you and some of your colleagues have raised these issues. But when it comes to security matters, when it comes to the safety of other Australians—

Senator Lambie interjecting

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Senator Lambie, we have to look after their safety, and in some instances you do have to impose laws that are more draconian than others. Without labouring the point, there is a time when that has to happen.

I know you were all praising Mr Castro before, so I will just divert a little bit. Senator Di Natale, you were praising Castro. There is an author in the Adelaide Advertiser called Caleb Bond. I do not know him, but he summed up Castro very well:

He was an evil, horrible man who impoverished a nation and killed many of his people.

He established concentration camps in which undesirable people were forced to work and subjected to a litany of abuses. The camps were crowded and the detainees slept on dirt.

Among the people thrown in those camps were homosexuals, who were described by the Castro government as "sick".

In fact, Castro said a homosexual could never be a proper communist because their sexuality "clashes with the concept we have of what a militant communist must be".

They were placed in camps to be "rehabilitated". Converted, in other words.

This is the guy that you said was a pretty good guy.

The TEMPORARY CHAIR ( Senator Gallacher ): Senator Rice, on a point of order?

Senator Rice: On relevance. Can you please ask Senator Macdonald to keep to the question under consideration?

The TEMPORARY CHAIR: Yes, we are having a wide-ranging debate, but I do ask Senator Macdonald to address the amendment.

Senator Lambie: I think he's getting dementia.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Senator Lambie is talking about dementia; she must have been looking in her mirror.

Senator Lambie: Is that the best shot you've got?

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Senator Lambie, you are pretty good at throwing around the insults. I suggest you have a look in the mirror once or twice. I am talking about human rights and the reverse onus of proof. I take those sorts of things very seriously. But Mr Castro did not, and I am just reminding you, Senator Di Natale, that this is a guy who you said was a great statesman and leader. But, with reverse onus of proof, I have always been concerned—

The TEMPORARY CHAIR: Senator Di Natale, on a point of order.

Senator Di Natale: I think it is important that Senator Macdonald firstly address the question at hand but, secondly, he might want to reflect on his comments and check the facts, because he is misleading the parliament. I have not said a peep about Castro. He might want to check his facts.

The TEMPORARY CHAIR: Senator Macdonald, could you address your remarks through the chair.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: My colleagues tell me perhaps it was not Senator Di Natale as leader of the Greens, but one of his party. I read which one it was but it went in my mind and straight out again. Anyway, it was suggested that Castro was a bit of a statesman and I am just telling you what he was.

Getting back to the amendment that I want to speak about, but I am being attacked and the interjections are diverting me all the time, I am concerned about the reverse onus of proof, particularly in a bill like this one. I think that reverse onus of proof in security legislation is a very important and very serious thing designed to protect Australians but it is perhaps not justified in bills such as this. I have not heard from the minister so I do not know what the government's position is, but I will be supporting this amendment. I think the amendment proposed by Senator Leyonhjelm on the reverse onus of proof is one that does deserve the support of the chamber, and of the parliament, and I would certainly be urging my colleagues to support it. As I say, perhaps the minister has already mentioned the government's position; frankly, I do not know what it is, but I would be urging the government to accept this amendment because I think it does improve the bill and it adds to that suite of measures that we as a small 'l' liberal party, a party that believes in freedom and believes in the rule of law, would support. We understand these things and that is why I think it is worthwhile adopting this amendment to fix that reverse onus of proof issue. I would certainly urge the chamber to support the amendment.

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