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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2015 Week 08 Hansard (Wednesday, 5 August 2015) . . Page.. 2350 ..

policy-free politics from those opposite. This is a motion designed to elicit a headline, and it is presumably intended to help deflect the tension from the travel entitlements scandal plaguing their colleagues on the hill. But then on the very day they managed to get a headline on this matter, they also landed a front page on entitlements more locally. That is a home goal.

It is disappointing, but not surprising, to see Mr Wall trying to make hay from the royal commission. All politics, no policy; it is an obvious attempt to continue the Liberal Party’s war on the unions and, as part of that, a war on workers’ rights and entitlements. I think we need to remember the importance of worker health and safety and that there are still valid issues about worker safety especially in construction sites in the ACT.

Tragically, the ACT has a poor record when it comes to industrial deaths and injuries. Unions play an important part in helping to address these issues through education, support, surveillance and contributions to policy development. I am confident that the union’s efforts on issues such as construction site safety have made a material difference in the improvements we have seen in the last few years in the ACT. It has been a clear focus of the CFMEU, the ALP and the Greens over the last few years, and I am pleased with the progress of the building quality forum, the Getting Home Safely report and their resulting activities.

Members are, of course, well aware of the ongoing royal commission into trade union governance. It is the second royal commission of the Abbott government which they have conducted into the Labor Party essentially since taking office just two years ago. As far as I am aware, the commission has not yet asked how effective unions have been in improving the safety of Canberra work sites. It has been well reported that both Fihi Kavalu and John Lomax have both been arrested and charged regarding their conduct as CFMEU officials.

The royal commission has certainly raised issues that need to be investigated, but it is also important to note that there are at least two sides to every story. On the one hand there are allegations of intimidation and blackmail, and on the other hand the union says its members are being unfairly prosecuted for simply demanding that companies pay their workers the minimum wage and put it in an enterprise agreement. Given the matters are currently before the courts, I will refrain from speaking further again on these cases. That is what we should all be doing if we are to be fair to these individuals. Remember, they are likely to appear before the courts to have a trial, and it is not appropriate to assume anyone is guilty of crimes for which they are only accused. But I will say that if any CFMEU officials are ultimately found guilty, I expect they will also be found to be the exception to the rule; they will be the few bad apples spoiling the barrel.

We know that unions in this country have a rich history of achievement, of fighting fiercely but fairly for the rights of workers. To write off an entire organisation based on the conduct of a few would be rash and reckless. It would be like writing off the entire Liberal Party based on the extravagance and hubris of Bronwyn Bishop.

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