Page 4554 - Week 14 - Wednesday, 23 November 2005

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often. The right to silence grew out of people’s struggle to free themselves from the prerogative of kings and the authoritarian power of the monarchy.

We should not be surprised that the government has given even more powers to the building industry task force. The Cole royal commission, which recommended the establishment of the task force, was unable to show any real or substantiated problems in the construction industry. Evidence by the task force in the Senate estimates hearing on 3 June showed that only one prosecution had been initiated by the task force as a result of evidence given to the royal commission and that the task force was not investigating any other issues before the royal commission.

An amount of $66 million of taxpayers’ money was spent for one prosecution that, at the time of the disallowance, was yet to be proven. That is the extent to which this government is willing to throw good money after bad when pursuing the CFMEU and construction and building workers. The result of the royal commission was proof, if ever it were needed, that the royal commission was a sham and the building industry task force that came out of it a police force whose sole role is to pursue the government’s ideological crusade against construction workers.

Why did the government want to give new powers to the building industry task force? It all related to the Building and Construction Industry Improvement Act, passed on 12 September 2005. Mr Gentleman has already detailed concerns about that act. I do not want to repeat that. I want to give the opposition time to speak to this motion. I endorse everything that Mr Gentleman said and especially thank him for allowing me not to have to say it.

On average, one building construction worker is killed every week in New South Wales. A young building worker, Mark Gallace, recently suffocated on a worksite in Chipping Norton in the western suburbs of Sydney. He was working for SACO Builders Pty Ltd. He was a young man of 24, the only son of Italian migrants who came to this country 30 years ago. He was engaged to be married in August. The reception had already been booked. The 900 people at his funeral would have preferred to have gone to his wedding. The Building and Construction Improvement Act means that, if workers gather together on the site to grieve and remember their workmate, to have a minute’s silence for workers like Mark Gallace, the union would be penalised.

Worst of all, this legislation came into effect a number of months before it was passed. This was another attack on fundamental civil rights and an attempt to intimidate the CFMEU and other construction unions into not protesting against these specific laws and these guidelines and perhaps the greater industrial relations battle.

The Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock, has said a number of times, “We don’t intend to make criminal laws retrospectively.” It appears that this is not a steadfast principle when the government wants to make laws designed to attack one group of people in this community—in this case, construction and building workers. We all know that it is easy to point to and pillory construction and building workers; it has been done for a long time, since the Builders Labourers Federation was effectively banned a decade or two ago.

Mr Mulcahy: For thuggery.

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