Federation Chamber PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS Trade Unions

Mr HUSIC (Chifley—Government Whip) (19:26): What stunning hypocrisy; what unbelievable behaviour! If anything, that last contribution really demonstrates what is beneath the veneer of this motion. Those opposite wring their hands at any sign of criticism of corporate Australia. They are out there upset and uptight at any point at which you criticise corporate Australia. They drag their own feet on reform that might not reach the approval of corporate Australia. You only need to look at how long it took to get trade practices reform through the gritted teeth of corporate Australia because those opposite would not do anything about it. But, whenever they get a chance to bag out unions or their members, they are there with a straight spine. They are there, first off, taking any chance they can to bag out unions and to ignore working Australians, unless of course they are able to be used as a media opportunity. The Liberal Party never meaningfully engage with the union movement. They never, ever engages with them. It is simply tick-a-box, stakeholder consultation where they are telling you what they are going to do and not really trying to involve the union movement on issues that affect their members. They will never seek the unions' ideas out and they will never work to sort out differences.

Let me contrast it this way. If we on this side of the House were to ever treat corporate Australia in the way that those opposite treat the union movement, they would be the first to feign outrage and to have a national wailing movement with confected outrage about the mistreatment of corporate Australia. How is it that those opposite can continually malign, bag out and criticise the union movement and never meaningfully engage with it or see them as people who have an inherent stake in the future of the economy, in the communities they operate in and in this country? Why do they never ever see them as a group that should be consulted and worked with? The Liberal Party are only ever there to bag them out or to see if they can score a political point out of them. The people who had the Work Choices cape are now telling us they are the greatest offenders of the low paid whereas, as the member for Throsby pointed out, they are never there supporting any submission to increase the salaries, the incomes or the wages of the lowest paid in our society.

To the matter at hand, I have spoken on the record encouraging unions to embrace accountability and to champion transparency, not just because it builds a greater affinity and a greater commitment to unions as a whole, but because it is simply the right thing to do. But, with respect, we do not need this resolution to do that, because as a government we are already acting. The government has already been clear, through the introduction of legislation in parliament which is specifically designed to increase transparency and accountability of registered organisations—not just unions, but also industry associations—that would require, for example, remuneration and board fees to be disclosed to members; require transactions with related parties, including family members, and transactions where an officer has a material personal interest, to be disclosed; require officers to undertake training in financial accountability; require organisations to develop policies in relation to accountability and management; and recognise the important role played by unions and employer organisations in our federal workplace relations system. These things are being introduced by us as a result, I emphasise, of widespread consultation not just with one group or one section of the community—industry associations—but also with unions. It has been open; it has been transparent. It has not been conducted behind closed doors; it has not been foisted on the parliament as an ambush. The legislation that was specifically designed to hurt one group in society, Work Choices, contrasts with what we are doing, which is talking with people and trying to introduce reform.

The other thing I have to say to those opposite is: just bear in mind the unintended consequences of what you are saying. There are a number of people who are affected by this—not just unions, but industry associations as well. I would be interested in getting from them a sense of where they are going to get people to go onto their boards of management if the opposition enforce the types of provisions they are trying to suggest should be enforced through what is being proposed here today.

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Ed Husic MP
Federal Labor Member for Chifley


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