Monday, 21 November 2016
Senator RHIANNON (New South Wales) (00:10): The way the minister replied about the amendment again reveals the deception that the government is running here. First off, what we need to remember is that the current act that is being amended already allows for criminal proceedings being initiated for a whole range of reasons—funds being misappropriated et cetera. So the criminal proceedings are already there.
Then we have heard Senator Cameron set this out very clearly in response to this argument about why the bill needs to capture volunteers. This amendment is a very ugly part of this legislation, and it goes to the heart of why we have taken it up so strongly. The real intent of this legislation is to restrict the activities of unions and the ability of working people to organise collectively to fight for better wages and conditions. Again, it is delivering for the government's constituency, corporate Australia. It is another example of that. To be able to argue the case, they actually end up lying about the real intent here. Already in the act there is the ability to initiate criminal proceedings.
Then they equate volunteers. Surely everybody knows how important volunteers are in organisations. In unions they are a huge part and always have been and, I am sure, always will be. They play a very valuable role, really enhancing the democracy of unions. What do we have here? The government are equating those volunteers with the directors of publicly listed companies. That is just plain wrong. That is not about cleaning up corruption; that is about penalising the ability of unions to collectively organise. That is what is being hammered here in the way it is being set out.
So it is certainly not an amendment that the Greens would support, and we would urge other senators to think clearly about it and vote against it.
The CHAIR: The question is that amendments (4) to (8), (10) and (11) on sheet 7919 be agreed to.