Statements - Minister for Employment


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (10:00): If anyone in this chamber—the few who are here—or any of the even smaller group who might be taking any interest whatsoever in this whole debate wanted an example of the misogynistic bullying that we know is rife in the union movement, they've heard it today in the last speech.

I hear from those opposite about misogynistic bullying and I laugh. Let me tell you who has been in the chamber from the Labor Party during this whole sorry occasion, this waste of one hour of the Senate's valuable time on the last day of sitting for the year, when there is a lot of business to be done. Let me tell you, when we talk about misogyny, who was in the chamber on the other side. The Labor Party in the Senate always prides itself on the majority of its senators being female. Let me tell you who was in the chamber when Senator Cash made her statement. There were eight Labor senators who happen to be male and there were three Labor senators who happen to be female. Immediately after Senator Cameron started to speak, two of the females left, and we had eight males and one female in the chamber. That female, bless her soul, was either asleep or very much involved in her device. She quickly left the chamber when Senator Cameron indulged in his misogynistic, bullying speech against Senator Cash, one of the most honest, most competent and most capable ministers that this parliament has ever seen.

Those eight Labor senators who happened to be male stayed for a little bit of Senator Cameron's speech, but immediately, after about two minutes, two of them had had enough and left. So there were five Labor senators left in the chamber, all males, and two of them had to be here because they hold the positions of manager and whip. This is the great matter of public importance that the Labor Party, with the help of the Greens, moved in order to waste one hour of valuable time on the last day of sitting in this chamber. For this matter of great public interest, not even the Labor Party could get half of their members here to hear Senator Cameron. They couldn't even get a quarter of them. Their leader, Senator Wong, a female, sensibly stayed away from the debate.

I say this is a typical Labor bullying, misogynistic speech, and who would need evidence of that? But I'm going to give the Senate some. It's well known. Do you remember Mr John Setka, the mate of all of those on the other side? He's a member of the CFMEU. This is the union movement that controls and runs the Labor Party, that funds the Labor Party, that provides all of their workers on election day. This is the union movement that Senator Cameron is so close to and defends continuously in this chamber. This is what Mr Setka said:

Let me give a dire warning to them ABCC inspectors—

public servants—

be careful what you do.

…   …   …   

You know what we’re going to do? We’re going to expose them all.

We will lobby their neighbourhoods. We will tell them who lives in that house. What he does for a living, or she.

…   …   …   

Their kids will be ashamed of who their parents are when we expose all these ABCC inspectors.

…   …   …   

He also said: 'They say there's two things you can't avoid; I say there's three. One of them is taxes, one of them is death and the other one is the construction unions, because, when we come after you, you'd better be careful.'

This is the sort of bullying, misogynist—because a lot of those inspectors were female—attitude you get from the union movement, and it is the union movement that Senator Cameron continuously defends in this place. Senator Cameron well knows the union movement and knows the corruption and graft that goes on. He well knows my namesake, the former New South Wales Labor member of parliament, Ian Macdonald, who is currently serving time in jail for bribery and corruption. He's a mate of Senator Cameron's. I'm not sure whether it was Senator Cameron who saved his preselection or whether it was Mr Ian Macdonald who saved Senator Cameron's preselection. Senator Cameron knows all about this corruption and graft in the union movement. He knows that my namesake just happened to give a coalmine worth $5 million or so to a union mate for the obvious kickback. I could take more than 20 minutes going through historical evidence. It is not me saying it. These are actual facts about corruption in the union movement. Labor senators were silent when the CFMEU threatened to rape children—rape children!—on the Oaky North picket line in Queensland.

Senator Cameron interjecting

Senator IAN MACDONALD: See! Senator Cameron now, as he did then, defends them! And he has the gall to come here and try and attack a female minister, who is one of the most competent, one of the most honest, that this nation has ever had the good fortune to have serving it. Mr Acting Deputy President, let me tell you what this vendetta against Senator Cash is all about. It's pretty clear. Here is a minister who continues to expose the graft, corruption, thuggery and criminality in the union movement. The union movement represents only 10 per cent of workers in private industry and only 44 per cent in the public service—a total of 17 per cent of workers. This is the union movement—the thugs, the criminals that Senator Cash exposes all the time—who own and control the Labor Party. There isn't a Labor senator sitting opposite here who is not a product of the union movement—not one of them. At every election the union movement funds and mans the campaign for the Labor Party. The union movement represent no-one—it is 17 per cent of all workers in Australia—yet they own the alternative government.

Senator Watt interjecting

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Watt. Senator Watt, you're not helping.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: But you can tell, Mr Acting Deputy President, whenever the truth comes out, the bullies on the other side think they're at a union movement. They think if they shout loud enough, threaten loud enough, they can call down their opposition. Senator Watt well knows this. Senator Jan McLucas was the only female senator in Queensland for the Labor Party—one who came from the north of Queensland, outside Brisbane—and Senator Watt used some of the skills he learnt in the union movement and working for the Labor Party to get rid of her—knife her in the back. He got rid of her. She was the only female senator in the Labor Party from Queensland, and the only one who was based outside the Brisbane capital city. Senator Watt knows what this is all about. He is well skilled, well practised.

Let me say this about Senator Cameron. I confessed—and I said this would come back to bite me—that outside of this chamber, when he is being a normal person, Senator Cameron is not a bad sort of fella. He is good company to be with. But as I said recently, Senator Cameron's history in finance is that he was an apprentice in a place in Scotland. He finished his time with the company and came out to become a tradesman there and the company closed its doors a week later. So he came to Australia and spent two years as a fitter at the Garden Island shipyard. Then he spent seven years as a maintenance fitter up at some coal mine in the Hunter Valley. I'm sure he was a very good maintenance fitter. That was his experience in life, and then he became a union official. Then, suddenly, he ends up as a director of a multibillion-dollar superannuation company, earning big fees as a director. I raise no implication of impropriety, but one might question how someone with seven years' experience in the workforce as a fitter can somehow become a director of a multi-billion-dollar finance company, whose expertise on the board, one would hope, would be international finance, banking, superannuation, and all those sorts of things.

Senator Cash is a minister who calls out this thuggery and criminality in the union movement. The union movement doesn't like it, because, for the union movement, the honesty and accountability that Senator Cash is trying to bring in to the union movement is such that when it succeeds—and her work and the Turnbull government's work will succeed—it means the unions are finished, because they represent only 17 per cent of the people. They will then no longer be able to use bullying, standover and criminal tactics to get their way. The unions know that, and so does every member opposite. That is why there is this concerted attack on Senator Cash. They think they picked an easy mark because she is a woman, but they should know by now that Senator Cash is tougher than any of them ever will be. But she does it in an honest and straightforward way. She doesn't hide behind anything. The accusations! Almost every word that Senator Cameron mentioned in his 20-minute ramble was not accurate. It was a mistruth and, if it weren't the Senate, I would call it for what it really was. He talks about Senator Cash being under criminal investigation. He knows that is not correct, yet he continues to peddle the lie because he thinks, as the union movement thinks, that a woman can be bullied into succumbing and getting off their back and not exposing them for the criminality that they indulge themselves in.

Senator Cameron is one of those who protected Luke Collier. Remember Luke Collier, the CFMEU official who had several convictions in the courts of the land? Senator Cameron and his mates continue to protect Luke Collier. This is the guy who threatened a Fair Work building inspector at the Barangaroo construction site. This is the Luke Collier who was charged with bashing his partner. This is the type of person that Senator Cameron defends and that Senator Cash exposes, and the union movement do not like it, because they know that, when Senator Cash succeeds, their type—these thugs and bullies who run certain elements of the union movement—will be out of a job and will not have the power that they exercise over the alternative government, with the measly 17 per cent of the Australian workforce they happen to represent.

This is a matter of life and death for the union movement, and it is a matter of life and death for the Australian Labor Party, which is controlled, owned and operated by the union movement, that little group of people who represent only 17 per cent of workers in Australia—and that's not the whole Australian population but just the working population of Australia. The union movement knows that if Senator Cash succeeds, if the Turnbull government succeeds, in exposing the criminality and thuggery in this little group of people—who, through their influence on the Australian Labor Party and those who sit opposite here, can control the alternative government, as they control the government in most of the states at the moment—it is a matter of life and death for them. When you get the ABCC exposing the thuggery and criminality, workers—genuine workers—in Australia will leave the union movement in droves, as they have been doing over the past years. No matter how much Senator Cameron follows the lead of these union thugs in attacking independent public servants, who can't answer back, it will get them absolutely nowhere.

Now, Senator Cameron mentioned Mr Enright, who I'd never met or seen before until I went to an estimates committee the other day. Here again today, as he did in that estimates committee, Senator Cameron personally attacks a public servant doing his job. But Mr Enright is a public servant answering to parliamentarians—and I have to say those public servants still give respect to the institution of parliament and to parliamentarians. But they cannot fight back, they cannot answer back; they have to sit there and be subjected to inaccurate, lying attacks by Labor senators about their credibility. Mr Enright, who I'd never met, as I said, until the—

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Bernardi ): Senator Macdonald, would you please withdraw the term 'lying'.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Well, I didn't raise it in relation to any particular person. But, if that's your ruling, I will do it—

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Thank you.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: and perhaps rephrase and say that, at the estimates committee, Mr Enright and other public servants were subjected to a continual barrage of mistruth and personal accusations which they as public servants were never able to respond to. The main plank of Senator Cameron's massive attack today was supported by, now, three of his colleagues, two of whom have to be in the room—so Senator Cameron's great support mechanism in this vicious attack is one senator who doesn't have to be here.

Senator Hinch: Two.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: I'm talking about people in the Labor Party, but that may well include you, Senator Hinch, from some of your activities. Senator Cameron's main attack today depends upon allegedly some reporting by a journalist who I've never heard of, representing a news organisation that I think most Australians have never heard of. Senator Cameron uses some allegedly private conversations, which, I have to say, have been denied by the officials involved, so it shows how good the journalist was. But Senator Cameron keeps raising those as his major attack, an attack on honest public servants who can't fight back. That's the sort of bullying you get from Mr Setka, it's the sort of bullying you get from Mr Collier and it's the sort of bullying you get from members of the Labor Party in this chamber who are here only because the likes of Mr Collier and Mr Setka put them here.

To add absolute insult to injury, Senator Cameron then starts attacking the Australian Federal Police. Now, I don't know a parliamentarian, regardless of their political persuasion, who thinks that we are not very well served by the independent Australian Federal Police, ASIO, ASIC and all the security agencies, yet Senator Cameron uses this chamber to attack the Australian Federal Police and start lecturing them about what they should and shouldn't be doing. These people have served governments of all persuasions over many years without any suggestion of bias or of doing anything but their proper public duty, which they discharge so very, very well. Yet Senator Cameron—with his one supporter now left in the chamber—attacks the Australian Federal Police.

Senator Cash is, I am pleased to say—it is not just my opinion; everywhere I go, people mention it—a forthright minister. Everyone who sees her says how direct and honest and open and accountable she is. She has done a wonderful job in all of the portfolios she has been involved in, but particularly in this one, because she is doing what every Australian wants her to do, and that is to expose graft and corruption and criminality wherever they occur, and she does that in spades in relation to the union movement, because that is her portfolio. It's important for Australia. It's important for all of us. Everyone who wants a job and wants to live in this country peaceably needs to know that there is not a group like the union movement who get there because of their bullying, their thuggery and their criminality. I might say that's not all unions, and I acknowledge Senator Ketter, Senator Farrell and the unions they represent, who are, I have to say, more reasonable in their approach. But, in relation to the unions Senator Cameron and my namesake in New South Wales support, the thuggery in the union movement has to be exposed. Senator Cash knows that.

I note in passing that Senator Cameron's major attack on the government is now supported by three other male senators, one of whom has to be here because he's the whip. This shows that not even the Labor Party are serious about this attack. The sooner we can get on with the real business of this Senate, the better this nation will be served.

Back to List