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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 12 Hansard (Tuesday, 30 October 2018) . . Page.. 4491 ..


history of unions is struggle. It is because of unions that we have our working conditions today, such as sick leave, the eight-hour day, annual leave, maternity leave, safety regulations, a ban on child labour, and a myriad of others. This attempt to smash unions and working people is the clearest demonstration of why we need to change the rules.

MR GENTLEMAN (Brindabella—Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Minister for Planning and Land Management, Minister for Police and Emergency Services and Minister assisting the Chief Minister on Advanced Technology and Space Industries) (3.52): I rise to support this excellent matter of public importance brought forward by Ms Cheyne and to join in the remarks my Labor colleagues have made in this debate.

Often in this place we hear from the Liberals about the importance of freedom of speech, but they seem to go silent when it comes to having this freedom in the workplace. Too often we see workers’ freedoms to engage in public debate or share their opinion with others curtailed through workplace contracts. We have seen workers sacked for sharing their views. Yet the supposed bastions of free speech, those opposite—who famously supported the former Attorney-General when he shamefully said that people have the right to be bigots—remain silent as workers’ rights are curtailed. Indeed, the very federal Liberal government members who have engaged in the culture wars and undermined our multicultural community through attacks on section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act on the basis of free speech are the ones that challenge the right of workers to engage in public debate.

When the Federal Court ruled that an immigration department employee was unlawfully sacked for her anonymous tweets, it was the federal Attorney-General, the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison-Dutton Liberal A-G, Mr Porter, who intervened and appealed the decision to the High Court. There was no criticism from those opposite about this, no impassioned speeches about the defence of citizens to engage in public debate.

The Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison-Dutton-Seselja Liberals have form, of course. It is the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison-Dutton government that has brought tougher restrictions on federal public servants who engage in the public debate. It is the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison-Dutton government that has used public contracts and grants to stop non-government agencies engaging in the public debate as well. The corporate sector has followed this lead. We have seen a woman in Tasmania sacked because of a tweet about her rights. Despite these attacks, the warriors on freedom of speech have remained strangely silent. One has to wonder: is it because they have something against workers? Does freedom of speech only apply when convenient for their political needs?

Those opposite had an opportunity to defend workers, but they did not. They are not the friends of ACT workers. They cannot come in here and claim to represent ACT public servants when, time after time, they misrepresent those workers. The Canberra Liberals cannot claim to stand up for ACT workers when they spend so much time in this place attacking workers, attacking ACT public servants. As others have pointed out in this debate, it is the Labor movement, the unions, that have stood


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