Page 4556 - Week 14 - Wednesday, 23 November 2005

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . . PDF . . . .

I suspect that what this is all about is particularly clause 2 (d) of Mr Gentleman’s motion where he talks about his horror at the ABCC being able to enforce a penalty against people who do not attend for questioning, answer questions or obstruct an investigation. How can you get up here and say that you are against giving them the powers to demand people cooperate and at the same time express the supposed concern that the federal government’s measures are all about making workplaces dangerous, about ignoring deaths in workplaces? They have declared that this is one of the key motivations in this particular set of measures.

The promotion of injury prevention and best OH&S practice is clearly a key priority of the federal government. They have certainly declared that they are committed to improving workplace safety, as a client. They have developed a national occupational health and safety strategy and have encouraged its adoption by all Australian governments—state governments and territory governments—and peak employer and employee bodies. Unlike some of those opposite, they have favoured a position of prevention rather than simply relying on punishment after the event. There have been a host of different approaches taken in different states, but certainly the initiatives shown in these measures are commendable.

I cringe when I hear these isolated cases being wheeled out of tragic loss of life on building sites, not because I am unsympathetic or not dismayed by the consequence to young people from workplace injury—one death in any workplace is one too many; no person with any sense of decency could take heart from that—but I am galled when I hear people like Sharan Burrow who, last month on the ABC Lateline program, was filmed at an ACTU campaign meeting saying, “I need a mum or dad of someone who has been seriously injured or killed; that would be fantastic.”

This is the sort of stuff that comes out from our friends in the trade union movement as they exploit someone’s misery and tragedy so that they can run their campaign because they feel under threat by the reforms that are being put forward by this government that is committed to improving workplace safety. It demonstrates the complete disregard for workers’ wellbeing, by taking advantage of family tragedies.

I have to ask the question: what does it say about the trade union movement’s concerns for workers and their families when a senior official in a responsible position gets up there and says to families that have suffered loss and tragedy, maybe the loss of a breadwinner, that it would be fantastic for her campaign, in her words, “if we could find somebody we could wheel out on television”? What a shameful reflection on her values and the conduct of the ACTU!

I take no warmth from that. No support would I give Mr Gentleman or members opposite for condoning that sort of conduct, because we ought to be working to ensure that there is no loss of life on Australia’s building sites. If people in this chamber believe that the only solution is to shift all the blame onto one party, then how can we ever seek to improve workplace conditions?

There are many people in this chamber who have first-hand knowledge of how the industrial movement operates, and there are people here who understand what has gone on in the building unions. Do not tell me that people in the labour movement have not

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . . PDF . . . .