Questions Without Notice - Take Note of Answers - 13 October 2015


 

Senator SESELJA(Australian Capital Territory) (15:18): It is great to have the opportunity to respond to the Labor Party. In listening to the contributions so far, it is hard to know who to give the bigger own-goal question to—whether it is the Labor Party asking about penalty rates, given Bill Shorten's record, or whether it is Senator Lambie with questions around Chinese money donations, given how the Palmer campaign was funded at the last federal election.

 

 

I want to focus on penalty rates but also on free trade, because we in the coalition—unlike those opposite, it would appear; increasingly, the Labor Party are walking away from free trade—believe passionately in free trade, in opening up markets and in the transformative potential that this has for the Australian economy and for Australian jobs. I would like to take the opportunity to congratulate the Minister for Trade and Investment, Andrew Robb, who has done an outstanding job representing Australia's interests, negotiating these difficult and complex trade agreements—most recently the Trans-Pacific Partnership but also the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement and the free trade agreements with Korea and Japan. These present a massive opportunity for the Australian economy, a massive opportunity for working Australians, because we know that the way you provide jobs is to grow the economy. One of the great ways of growing the economy is through trade with other nations. The TPP opens up more and freer trade with some of our biggest trading partners in the region and builds on the fantastic free trade agreements with China, Korea and Japan. We are now entering into an era of much freer trade, where Australian exporters—be they exporters of services or agricultural or other goods—can get access to these markets. But, as we break down these trade barriers and get rid of some of these remaining tariffs, it is good for Australian consumers as well. It is good for Australian consumers as they can buy goods more cheaply. We should be very proud of what this government has achieved.

 

The Labor Party are walking away from the Hawke-Keating years, where there appeared to be a commitment to growing the economy, where there appeared to be a commitment to freer trade. The Labor Party are trashing those free trade credentials in attacking the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement. You wonder why. I was contemplating why they would be doing it. To get the answer you only have to go to the former head of the ACTU, Martin Ferguson. Martin Ferguson tells us how the modern Labor Party creates its policy and how it comes to the conclusions that it comes to. I will quote from Martin Ferguson, because I think he has put it very well. He says:

 

Too many of that Shadow Ministry and the Caucus are almost as if they're prisoners of the union movement. It's the union movement now who funds individual candidates. They wait for the phone call from the trade union heavy to tell them what to do.

 

And haven't we seen that on the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement: they wait for the trade union heavy to give them the call to tell them what to do. But, of course, when we hear from the Labor Party about jobs we know, including from Martin Ferguson, that it is often about their own jobs. Martin Ferguson goes on to tell us how the Labor Party look after jobs. It is not about the jobs of the workers; it is about the jobs of union officials. This is from Martin Ferguson:

 

… there's always been a very strong union involvement. And I must say, I think back. In the history of the Labor Party we always allowed, ah, the unions to put a few people in our state upper houses.

 

There was always a retirement, ah, pasture for those who had done a good job. Or some of them worked on the basis: if you can't put them in the Industrial Commission, you put the duds in the Senate or the … Upper Houses.

 

That is pretty harsh from Martin Ferguson. They are his words, pretty harsh, and I do not want to cast aspersions on some of my fellow senators, but if that is the attitude of the modern union movement—that they use the Senate as a retirement pasture for some of their lower performing union members or union delegates—then that is not a good reflection of the union movement's commitment to growing jobs and growing the economy. On the other hand, the coalition is committed to growing the economy and growing jobs, as demonstrated by the recent free trade agreements. (Time expired)