SUBJECTS: ACT Government and UnionsACT; Government Chaos
TIM SHAW: Senator Zed Seselja, Senator for the ACT, Gai Brodtmann, the Member for Canberra, joining me both on the line now. Good morning to you both.
GAI BRODTMANN, SHADOW PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY FOR DEFENCE: Good morning Tim.
ZED SESELJA: Good morning.
BRODTMANN: Good morning to you Zed.
SHAW: Okay I want to play to both of you what was said in the Senate yesterday by Employment Minister Michaelia Cash in response to a question from the Senator from the ACT Zed Seselja.
MICHAELIA CASH, MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT [PRERECORDED]: It appears there's now four levels of government. You have the legislature, the executive, the judiciary, and then of course there's the unions. And Labor would appear to put the unions at the very top of the structure.
SHAW: That's the question, that's the question. The audio courtesy of the ABC. Gai Brodtmann, four tiers of government? Unions controlling the ACT Government? Your thoughts?
BRODTMANN: Well, this arrangement has been in place for eleven years. And Jon Stanhope signed, as you said, the original document back in 2005 when John Howard's Workchoices left Canberrans with very serious concerns about their workplace safety. So I suppose my question is - Zed's been Opposition Leader over that time, if he was concerned about it, why didn't he do anything about it then? -
BRODTMANN: There's been three elections since then and we've heard diddly-squat about this from the ACT Liberals, at a time when Zed was actually Opposition Leader. So you've just got to ask the question, why now? And in my view it's now because it's a distraction from the shambles that is this Abbott-Turnbull Government.
SHAW: Let’s put it to him. Zed, you were Opposition Leader at the time; Jeremy Hanson, present Opposition Leader, said he didn't know about it. But Brendan Smyth was on the procurement committee back in 2009-10, 2011, when so too was Caroline Le Couteur. Your thoughts on this?
SESELJA: Well look, if you search for this document, there's nothing public about it until this came out today, or this came out yesterday. The ACT Labor Government are claiming it's been public. They publish everything. They publish absolutely everything and they didn't publish this, but I've never seen the document, but I've seen the document now, and whether they published it somewhere secretly before or not is actually not the most relevant thing. What's relevant is what's in it, and how it empowers unions in a very dodgy way. The idea that you have the CFMEU with its history - even here we've had criminal behaviour from at least one of their people, he's pleaded guilty to that - and we've had all sorts of dodgy behaviour right around the country. And you empower a union like that. This is a union that controls the preselection of ministers, they control the funding of Labor party campaigns, and then you’re going to give them a list of contractors so that they can give their view on who is in and who is out and of course it's going to come down to whether they sign a union-approved EBA and it will come down to all sorts of other factors. Now that is dodgy governance.
SHAW: Alright, Gai, Gai.
SESELJA: I don't know how the Labor party can defend itself.
SHAW: Thanks Zed. Gai, should Andrew Barr tear this agreement up? Because he said to us here on 2CC, "no agreement, no Memorandum of Understanding in any way, shape or form, affects the decisions made by the ACT Government." So if that's the case, don't we just tear up the agreement that was signed by him in March of 2015? Doesn't the voice of the union movement have the rights under federal and territory law to be able to make representations to government at the appropriate time about misbehaviour by those in the construction industry that are doing the wrong thing, those large businesses hurting small businesses here. Why do we need this MoU? Shouldn't Andrew Barr tear it up today?
BRODTMANN: Well that's a decision for Andrew, really. But it is designed for the ACT Government to fairly consider the rights of workers. Now unions, as I understand it, have no say in the procurement decisions. When they are consulted it is to alert the Government to possible wrongdoings by contractors.
SHAW: So you'd have no trouble with the Property Council of Australia having an MoU with the ACT Government, the Business Council of Australia having an MoU with the ACT Government, the Canberra Business Chamber having the same MoU, or even the Master Builders Association of the ACT having an MoU with the government, to be able to see confidential, in-confidence documentation from a tenderer to a government? I mean, this is unheard of, isn't it Gai?
BRODTMANN: Well, as I understand it -and I've only seen the reports Tim - but as I understand it remains subject to all relevant federal and state laws, and it's a decision for the ACT Government. But it was designed - it has been place, as I go back to my earlier point, it has been in place for eleven years. We heard nothing from the ACT Opposition over that time -
SESELJA: Because they didn't publish it -
BRODTMANN: You know, this has been in place for three elections.
SESELJA: Show me where it's published. They kept it hidden.
BRODTMANN: It was in place when Zed was Opposition Leader. So I go back to my original point: if he was concerned about it, why didn't he do anything about it then?
SHAW: Zed, what's the role of Opposition when they're not in government? Isn't it to call out when government is seen to be doing the wrong thing? Isn't that the job of Opposition leaders?
SESELJA: Tim, they hid it. And this is the thing. We did a search on this when we became aware of this document yesterday and before yesterday's coverage you could find nothing on it. You could find a reference in 2004 to a cabinet document that gets published 10 years later, and it was a draft document in 2004 - that was the only public reference, other than a vague reference in a committee. Now, Gai - you're better than this Gai. You can't defend this. Now let's put this into context. Fihi Kivalu. He was the sub-branch president of the Labor Party. He was also in the CFMEU, and he's pleaded guilty to blackmail. What kind of conflict of interest and potential for conflict of interest would have there been when people like Fihi Kivalu potentially have access to who's going to contract. He's shown that he will be a standover merchant and yet the Labor Party does a deal to give him the details of who is potentially tendering. And this is a guy who along with others controls the preselection of ministers and funds the campaign of Labor Party members and ministers.
SHAW: Alright, Zed.
SESELJA: You know, the idea that that doesn't potentially lead to conflicts of interest and corruption is extraordinary.
SHAW: Gai, the sniff test here is on high alert. Does this go through the pub test? We've got the punters listening to this going; I don't believe this for a minute.
BRODTMANN: Well, I just want to go back to some of the points that Zed made, particularly in terms of the corruption issue: we have made it abundantly clear that Federal Labor and ACT Labor have zero tolerance for corruption. In unions. In any organisations.
SESELJA: - You've got to back it up with actions. More than words.
BRODTMANN: - We've made that abundantly clear. And we've also, at the federal level, announced a package of governance arrangements aimed at deterring and detecting corruption in unions. So there's a number of arrangements, we've got zero tolerance for corruption in unions or any organisation; we've made it abundantly clear forever. And we've introduced measures at the federal level to improve governance arrangements at deterring and detecting corruption in unions.
SHAW: Gai Brodtmann -
SESELJA: This is now a problem for Bill Shorten because they can talk all they like about how they're against corruption. They vote against the ABCC, which is about establishing the rule of law on building sites - they're desperate to avoid it because the CFMEU doesn’t want it - and now we see just the depths of the links between the Labor Party and the union masters. You can say you're against corruption, but when you put in place arrangements that make it easier, or you don't take action to actually deal with it, then they are simply hollow words.
SHAW: Alright Zed. Gai, I was at the National Press Club yesterday with the Leader of Government Business in the Senate Mitch Fifield. I told him the activities in the Senate this week makes a better reality television show than My Kitchen Rules. What's your view on the deal done with the Government and the Greens on the stalling of bringing on votes this week?
BRODTMANN: Well it's interesting: Zed mentions the fact that he's wedded to this ABCC vote, but the vote on it was voted against this week, as was the same-sex marriage vote. So it's been interesting what's going on. I'd just be interested to say, did you did see Mitch, did you mention that we want NBN in Tuggeranong and we want it now? We want to be put on the rollout map and we want to be prioritised?
SHAW: Yeah, I'm working on that, trust me. Zed, what's happening in the Senate today?
SESELJA: Well, you tell me. Obviously we don't control the Senate, so what we do is do our best to negotiate legislation through the Senate. I would expect that, at some point - probably some point tomorrow - we'll have some legislation that will hand power back to voters rather than backroom dealers in the Senate. And I think that's a really positive thing. You know, the Labor Party is effectively arguing that the Australian people aren't smart enough to choose where their preferences should go, and I've got a fundamentally different view. I say if you leave it to the Australian people you can choose to vote 1, vote 1, 2, vote 1 to 6 - in whatever order you want - I think Australians are smart enough to do that.
SHAW: Zed, do you trust Australian school principals and Australian schoolteachers to act in the best interests of their pupils at all times? And therefore, this Safe Schools debate belies belief. I have trust in Australian educators. Why can't we let them get on with dealing with using tools like the Safe Schools website to be able to bring to the attention their concerns with parents about their young daughters and sons in our schools? This debate's gone off the rails, particularly with Mr. Christensen's commentary in the House of Representatives. Belies belief he did what he did to Victorian academic in the House of Reps yesterday.
SESELJA: Well look, I don't know the details of the Victorian academic, if he's -
SHAW: He wrote a paper 35 years ago about how paedophilia need the community's assistance, and I think we both know what he means by that. I can't believe one of your colleagues in the Coalition would make those statements under parliamentary privilege in the manner that he did.
SESELJA: Well Tim I disagree. I saw the comments that were attributed to this guy whether it was 35 years ago or not, I wouldn't stand by them and I would condemn those comments - I think most in the community would. On the broader issue, on Safe Schools, I think what the concerns that have been raised with me in the community are about is not about anti-bullying programs - nobody has a problem with anti-bullying programs - if people are struggling for any reasons they should be supported, I think everyone supports that. The questions that have been raised by parents are the appropriateness of some of the materials. And it is up to - in the end I think the key is that parents know what's going on and when it comes to sensitive matters around sexuality and the like, it's always been the case that parents should consent to the type of things their kids are exposed to, and I think going forward that has to be the principle. And I'm sure that'll be where we end up. There's been a review -
SHAW: Announced today? Are we seeing that review announcement today?
SESELJA: Well look I don't know, that's up to Minister Birmingham as to when that review comes out, but I think it's important these things are reviewed because there has been significant community angst and I think most people would say that some aspects - particularly the links to some of the websites - are inappropriate, particularly for ten year olds, eleven year olds -
SHAW: Sure. Alright.
SESELJA: So I don't think it's unreasonable that parents raise these concerns and we take them seriously.
BRODTMANN: Look, this is designed to put an end to bullying. And we've all experienced bullying at school at some stage of our life, Tim, and it's designed to put an end to that, as well as to develop tolerance. I was just listening to Warren Entsch before I came on the show, and he's concerned - like many of us are concerned - about what's going on in the Coalition. Again, it just underscores the disunity and the dysfunctionality of this Coalition Government - this Abbott-Turnbull Government. But what's interesting is that this program's been going for some time now. The program was running under Tony Abbott, when he was Prime Minister, it's interesting now that it's being raised by George Christensen and others in the far right of the party. They’re expressing their concerns - why didn't they express their concern then?
SHAW: Yeah, too true. Happy Saint Patrick’s Day. You guys having a Guinness today?
BRODTMANN: No I won't have a Guinness today, but happy Saint Patrick's day to everyone.
SHAW: I'll have your pint. Zed, are you going to have a Guinness?
SESELJA: Look, happy Saint Patrick's Day but unfortunately, given we'll be sitting til the early hours I suspect there won't be a Guinness, but who knows - at about ten o'clock tonight, you never know.
BRODTMANN: I think it could be a bit later than that, Zed.
SESELJA: It might be.
SHAW: And listen, happy birthday to Kate Seselja, your mum. Happy birthday. How old is she? Can you mention a lady's age on the radio?
SESELJA: Oh look, she's in her sixties, and she's doing very very well, mum, so yeah, happy birthday to Mum. She's a wonderful human being and I know she listens to you Tim, so hopefully she's listening to you today and she had a good day yesterday.
BRODTMANN: And happy birthday to your mum too, Zed.
SESELJA: Thanks Gai.
SHAW: Thanks Gai. Gai Brodtmann, Member for Canberra, thank you, and Senator Zed Seselja, thankyou both. Have a great day.
SESELJA: Thanks very much.
BRODTMANN: Thank you.