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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 14 Hansard (Wednesday, 23 November 2005) . . Page.. 4557 ..


been equally appalled by some of the thuggery that they have witnessed. The BLF might be gone, but there are people who still carry those logos and allegiances and conduct themselves in the same way.

Can I say in relation to the comment about the big end of town: I condemn the big end of town that have done some of these deals over the years. It was as much complicity on the part of employers in Melbourne as it was the BLF that led to the Norm Gallagher era where there was tyranny on Melbourne building sites. I lived in that state at that time. Do not tell me that these people who are simply out there concerned about the wellbeing of workers are being unfairly treated as a consequence of this horrendous royal commission that uncovered all sorts of thuggery.

We know that people were intimidated and were frightened to give evidence, and we saw those marches in Melbourne when leaders of the building and construction industry stood out there in Bourke Street and defied the parliament, tried to intimidate the commissioners and conducted themselves in a way that I do not think the decent people in the trade union movement would want to be part of, because most people in the trade union, in my experience, have generally had the interests of their members at heart. But we have a rogue element there. They are alive and well in the building industry, and it is hoped that these measures will curb some of that activity.

The fact is that safety concerns are paramount. The Federal Safety Commissioner will use the government’s massive purchasing power to try to impact on the way in which organisations administer their safety provisions.

The building industry task force brought fascinating revelations. It was interesting to read in the Sun Herald on 5 December last year an article entitled “Rort city”:

Safety is now used by the unions as the major industrial relations weapon to achieve their goals.

The task force report talked about the task force frequently receiving complaints whereby industrial issues were dishonestly expressed as OH&S concerns. It found that this abuse of OH&S legislation was a major limitation to the industry’s efficiency. This conclusion is consistent with the final report of the royal commission, which found many instances where safety issues were used as an excuse for creating industrial unrest. If you talk to people, when they are being quite frank with you, who have had dealings in this particular section of industry, you know full well all the games and all the tactics that are employed.

There has been in the past a significant lack of uniformity between commonwealth, state and territory jurisdictions, which has led to problems in the area of OH&S. Genuine measures to improve the performance of workplaces in terms of OH&S will not find obstruction on this side of the chamber. But where we see the squawking from union officials, who have engaged in thuggery and who are now being brought somewhat under a measure of control, where the performance they have had in the past has been unearthed, as it was in the Cole royal commission, then it is not unreasonable that measures be taken—and all members ought to be supporting them—to create workplaces where people do not go to work fearful of intimidation by hired union hacks. The opposition’s position on this motion is fairly clear.


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