Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption, Liberal Party Take Note of Answers

I too rise to take note of the answers but more particularly to take note of the questions. Here we are at a time when South Australia has the highest rate of unemployment in the nation and people are leaving jobs, and yet every question in question time from those opposite has gone to the issue of this royal commission.

No matter what Senator Gallagher says about apprehended bias, it does not change the fact that the royal commission is exposing is deep-seated corruption within the union movement. A number of things have been revealed during this royal commission about the bribes, the blackmail, the bullying and the criminal offences that, as a direct result of this royal commission, have seen union organisers arrested and charged with criminal offences. We have heard about the tight linkages between the union movement and members opposite. As a result of the royal commission we have seen Mr Shorten, as Leader of the Opposition, scramble to correct the record after eight years of hiding a $40,000 donation to his campaign. He has scrambled to correct the record before the light of transparency provided by this royal commission could be shone onto his circumstances. Those opposite are defending the indefensible not just because of that conduct but, more importantly, because of the things that are important to Australians—things like the economy and jobs for our citizens and our children. The union movement is now running a scare campaign against initiatives of this government around things like free trade agreements. This government has signed three free trade agreements that former governments, particularly the former Labor government, were never able to achieve, yet we have seen the Electrical Trade Union blatantly lying on TV about the impact on jobs of the free trade agreement. Anyone who watches TV at the moment will see the consistent ads coming up—always designed to tug at the heartstrings—of a dad talking to his son and saying how jobs will not be available because Tony Abbott did not choose him.

In hearings of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, officers from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade were questioned at length about this issue by Labor Party members of the committee. What became clear, in answer after answer after answer, was that that campaign by the unions is just wrong. It is inaccurate and they are peddling lies as a scare campaign because they see this as an opportunity to bolster the political stakes for the Labor Party heading into the next election. The department provided quite detailed explanations and it is very clear that China has been brought into line with most other countries in terms of how Australia deals with them. All workers who come in have to have the relevant qualifications, there has to be market testing, jobs have to be advertised and Australians have to get first choice. There are time limits for anyone who is brought in, and they have to be paid Australian wages and work under Australian conditions. All of the claims of the union movement are wrong. That is why it is so disappointing that the opposition would spend the whole of question time today debating the motivations of the commissioner rather than addressing the substance of the evidence which has emerged during the commission about the fact that the union movement—which now represents a very small percentage of the Australian workforce—is, for political reasons, actually undermining measures taken by this government to create jobs, grow our economy and provide our young people with a future.

If there is a failure of leadership, if there is a failure of judgement, surely it is in the focus of the opposition on short-term political expediency as opposed to calling their supporters—and I am the first to acknowledge that unions do have a place—to account for the corrupt activity, for the lies which are economic vandalism and for sabotaging the future of this nation.