Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment (Ensuring Integrity) Bill 2019
SHADOW MINISTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM
MEMBER FOR ISAACS
Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment (Ensuring Integrity) Bill 2019
31 JULY 2019
This Liberal Party enjoys delivering lectures on integrity. Last week, I heard the Attorney-General on the radio doing it again in relation to this bill. He and the other phony tough guys in the Liberal Party are telling us that they are going to ensure the integrity of the union movement. But, as the old saying goes, this seems to be a case of do as I say, not do as I do. To paraphrase another old saying, this Liberal government should focus on putting its own house in order before it lectures others on matters of integrity, because this Liberal Party has an uneasy relationship with the concept of integrity. There is not enough time in the day to go through them all, but let's just touch on a few examples that illustrate that fact.
We know that the member for Hume, along with his friend the Treasurer of Australia, still has questions to answer about the alleged illegal poisoning of critically endangered grasslands on a property partly owned by—guess who? The member for Hume. We know that his own department, the Department of the Environment and Energy no less, is now investigating this honourable member because of his interest in a company called Jam Land Pty Ltd, which was involved in that alleged poisoning of critically endangered grasslands. We also know that record-breaking amounts of money were paid by the Commonwealth to buy water from a company with links to this same member for Hume, a company that was owned by a Cayman Islands based entity that the same honourable member for Hume—
The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Andrews ): Order! I'm having great difficulty, Member for Isaacs, in relating the remarks you're making at the moment to the subject matter of this bill.
Mr DREYFUS: The subject matter of this bill is related to ensuring integrity, Deputy Speaker, with respect.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: It is a bill to amend the Fair Work Registered Organisations Act, Member for Isaacs. I will listen a little more, but—
Mr DREYFUS: Referred to by the Prime Minister, with respect, and every other member of the Liberal Party as the 'ensuring integrity bill'. So perhaps there's a problem—
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I said I'll listen a little more, but you're getting a long way away, I think, from the subject matter of this bill.
Mr DREYFUS: Thank you, Deputy Speaker. We don't know the full story yet—not yet, anyway—because the member for Hume won't tell us and his Prime Minister won't make him. You could deliver an entire speech about the member for Hume's own uneasy relationship with the concept of integrity, but I don't want his colleagues to feel left out. After all, we also heard Senator Cormann accepting free overseas holidays from Liberal Party donors—
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! The member is now straying well away from this bill. I ask him to come back to the subject matter of the bill.
Mr DREYFUS: With respect, Deputy Speaker, the subject of this bill is integrity, and there is a second reading amendment which has been moved by the Manager of Opposition Business and which talks about the government's inconsistent approach to royal commissions, the government's entire approach to workplace relations laws being to attack workers' organisations and the government not proposing to deal with legislation on a range of other matters.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I understand that. I'm still of the view, Member for Isaacs, that your current remarks have strayed far away from even the purport of the amendments.
Mr DREYFUS: I'll endeavour to relate my remarks more to the liking of the Deputy Speaker on the subject matter of this bill.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: It's not about my personal liking, I should say; it's about the standing orders and whether or not the remarks go to the bill itself.
Mr DREYFUS: This is a bill which purports to impose standards of integrity on a small sector of Australian society or a small sector of the Australian economy. It is symptomatic of the approach of this government that it is not prepared to deal with a whole range of other integrity matters that are before its eyes. I've given one example of an integrity matter that is before the government's eyes which it is not prepared to deal with; rather, it wishes to try to say that it is dealing and is entitled to deal only with a small part of what it alleges are integrity issues arising in a small part of Australian society or a small part of the Australian economy. But it's not prepared to look at the issues around the integrity of the member for Hume. It's also not prepared to look at integrity issues arising in relation to Senator Cormann accepting free overseas holidays from Liberal Party donors and failing to declare them, linked to the whole shady Helloworld Travel scandal that also involved former Liberal Treasurer Joe Hockey.
We've had another integrity matter that this government is saying does not warrant the attention of this parliament in the slightest. That would be Senator Cash refusing to cooperate with an Australian Federal Police investigation into the leaking of sensitive information about police operations, leaks that came out of her own office.
Let's talk about another integrity matter that this government had no interest in: who could ever forget the 'choppergate' scandal in which the former member for McKellar Bronwyn Bishop so comprehensively disgraced herself? She's not here anymore, but the member for Fadden is still here. This is another integrity matter that the government thinks does not warrant the attention of this parliament. Who could forget that the member for Fadden was sacked from the ministry by the previous Prime Minister over multiple conflicts and the misuse of his ministerial position in the pursuit of the business interests, in particular, of Liberal donors in China as well as his own business interests? This Prime Minister's brought him back into cabinet, no less, not content with putting him in the ministry, presumably because it would be a gross inconsistency to exclude someone from this particular ministry because of a lack of integrity.
Then we've got the member for Dickson. He calls himself a minister of the Crown. He's a senior cabinet minister. This is another integrity matter that the government doesn't seem to be interested in taking any action about. It is not interested in taking action at an executive level and certainly not interested in having any discussion in this parliament. It wants to talk about integrity only in relation to a small sector of Australian society and a small sector of the Australian economy. The member for Dickson is the same honourable member who had 'no sight'—his words—of the payment of $423 million by his own department to a company called Paladin, which was based in an empty beach shack on Kangaroo Island, all without an open tender or other transparent process. What about that same member for Dickson, as Minister for Home Affairs, awarding a $591 million contract to a mysterious Brisbane based company to run garrison and welfare services on Nauru, again without an open tender or a transparent process? It happens to be the same company whose chief executive officer made a personal donation to the Minister for Home Affairs' branch of the LNP while the terms of that very contract were still being negotiated.
What about the Minister for Home Affairs, the same Minister for Home Affairs, agreeing to extend that lucrative contract and pay that mysterious Brisbane based company even more in the same month that the Liberal National Party received a donation from a related company registered to the same business address? This government's got a very narrow view of integrity; it only wants to bring bills to this parliament that deal with integrity in a small part of Australian society and a small part of the Australian economy. To go on about the Minister for Home Affairs: what about the Minister for Home Affairs personally intervening, against the advice of his own department, to award visas to at least two au pairs who were facing deportation for breaking Australian law—au pairs who were employed by the minister's former colleague and the family of a well-known Liberal Party donor?
I could then come to the Attorney-General. He's meant to have some interest in integrity. He's, after all, the minister who introduced the bill that's before the House—the 'Ensuring Integrity Bill', as he likes to refer to it. This Attorney-General is badging himself as the architect of ensuring integrity for a small part of Australian society and a small part of the Australian economy, namely the unions. This Attorney-General has treated the Administrative Appeals Tribunal—appointments to which he's responsible for—like a Liberal Party employment agency, appointing dozens of former Liberal Party MPs, former Liberal Party staffers and failed Liberal Party candidates to high-paying taxpayer funded jobs which should be going to properly qualified and experienced experts. The situation there has become so bad—and, again, we won't hear the Attorney-General talking about this part of integrity in government operations—that a review of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal by a former High Court judge, a review that the Attorney-General sat on for some seven months, recommended that all future appointments to the tribunal should be made on the basis of merit—merit! That idea will no doubt come as a rude shock to the Attorney-General! Yet this Attorney-General has the temerity to stand up day after day and tell this parliament and the people of Australia that he's the man who will ensure the integrity of the union movement.
It's easy to forget, in the welter of discussion that this government would like to have about ensuring integrity in the union movement, that this Liberal government—this failing, tired, third-term Liberal government—went to the election promising to establish a Commonwealth integrity commission. They don't like to talk about it much anymore. They only committed to the idea because they were forced into it. But it's true—I need to remind Australians that it's true—that this government went to the election promising to establish a Commonwealth integrity commission. The current Attorney-General and the current Prime Minister announced it together in December last year; I do have the tapes. They even put money into the budget for this Commonwealth integrity commission. Of course, we've heard nothing of it since the election. We've had a list of legislation for this year published by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet which did not include legislation for a Commonwealth integrity commission. Apparently that's now gone back to the drawing board—or perhaps it's gone into the wastepaper basket. That's how much this government thinks of integrity. Its promise of a Commonwealth integrity commission has gone into the ether.
Of course, even if the Liberal government did follow through on its election commitment to establish a Commonwealth integrity commission, the body as outlined by the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General wouldn't ensure the integrity of the parliament and it certainly wouldn't ensure the integrity of the government. The Liberal Party's favoured model for an integrity commission would ensure no such thing. As many experts, including quite a number of eminent retired judges, observed at the time the Attorney-General and the Prime Minister made their policy announcement, their integrity commission would be the kind of model that you announce when you don't want an integrity commission. Their model for an integrity commission would give special treatment to politicians by establishing two separate divisions: the so-called law enforcement division would be tasked with investigating allegations of corruption by law enforcement, and the public sector division would investigate allegations of corruption involving politicians. But the powers of the law enforcement division to investigate allegations of corruption would be far more extensive than the powers of the public sector division, and only the law enforcement division could hold public hearings. One rule for the police, another rule for the Attorney-General and his colleagues—that's the indication that we should take about the attitude of this Liberal government to integrity, particularly on a national level, across government, which is what a national integrity commission should be about.
Putting to one side the many problems with the Liberal Party's preferred model for a Commonwealth Integrity Commission—their title—it is notable that we haven't heard a peep from the Attorney-General or any other member of the government about their proposed Commonwealth Integrity Commission Since the election. There have been no sermons from them about ensuring the integrity of this parliament or the government of Australia. They are so allergic to ensuring integrity—that's the title of this bill, 'ensuring integrity'—in their own ranks that they can't even bring themselves to talk about an election commitment that they made, which was to bring legislation for a Commonwealth Integrity Commission to this parliament.
Just to go back to the list, published by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, of legislation that's proposed for introduction to this parliament in 2019; there is there nothing about the Commonwealth Integrity Commission. They have listed, however, the Overseas Welfare Recipients Integrity Program Bill as a priority; the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Payment Integrity) Bill is also apparently a priority—again, these are very small, focused, targeted integrity measures—but nothing at all about a national integrity commission, which would grapple with integrity at the national level and across government. When it comes to welfare recipients, you might observe that these phony tough guys are all about ensuring integrity; when it comes to the union movement, they love to talk about integrity, but if they're putting their own house in order you'd be left wanting.