Jun 20, 2007

Matters of Public Importance – Trade Unions

Matters of Public Importance – Trade Unions

20 June 2007

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (3.39 p.m.)—Today, we have chosen to debate this topic as the matter of public importance rather than productivity and the economy, in spite of the fact that the government have said all week that they want a debate on the economy and on productivity. When the shadow Treasurer submitted an MPI for debate in this House, in order to have a proper debate between himself and the Treasurer, they cut and run. For the first time since 2005, they submitted an MPI and ensured that it was the matter that would be debated today.

Of course, we know that after they did that, they then proceeded to not actually debate the issue—to not debate the matter that is before the parliament today. And that is not surprising, given that today it was revealed, on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald, exactly what sort of a campaign we are going to see on industrial relations in 2007.

We know that there is now going to be a BCA-ACCI campaign and that, specifically, the campaign director is the chief Liberal strategist, Mark Textor. The operations director is a former senior Liberal official, Mr Tony Barry, and the campaign committee includes former Liberal advisers Peter Anderson and Brett Hogan. Of course, we also know that Crosby Textor is run by the former Liberal Party director, Lynton Crosby. He is the person who is conducting the campaign.

Today, in parliament, we sought guarantees that this would not be a taxpayer funded through research campaign on behalf of the Liberal Party by the BCA and ACCI. Of course, we did not get any assurance of that.

Mr Richardson—Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. Could you bring the member back to relevance regarding the MPI.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. IR Causley)—MPIs are generally wide ranging. I am sure the member for Moreton was wide ranging. I call the member for Grayndler.

Mr ALBANESE—Mr Deputy Speaker, they really do not want to have a debate on this. First of all, they choose their MPI over the issue of the economy and productivity, and next they try to gag the debate.

It is interesting that these people talk about campaigns and whether there is intimidation and what is appropriate or not. If you look at Crosby Textor, you do not actually have to look at what we say about them; have a look at what they say about themselves. I quote from their website:

Crosby|Textor then helps its clients to map values based communications strategies that are both rationally and emotionally relevant so as to be able to actually change behaviour.

I repeat: ‘so as to actually change behaviour’—to manipulate public opinion. And that is what they are using the tens of millions of dollars of publicly funded market research to do. Of course, there has been a terrific study of Mark Textor’s role in The Hollow Men: A Study in the Politics of Deception, by Nicky Hager, about the September 2005 New Zealand election. Textor’s role as a paid consultant to the New Zealand National Party is explored in the chapter titled ‘The Manipulators’. The New Zealand Nationals formally sought Crosby Textor’s assistance in October 2004. Lynton Crosby was in the UK—assisting the British Conservatives to lose again—so Textor took on the contract, signed in November 2004. Textor did not move to New Zealand but he travelled there regularly. He also provided telephone and written advice from Australia and was on the ground for the last two weeks of the campaign.

Textor advised the New Zealand Nationals to raise money for two campaigns in the event that the September 2005 election produced a tight result. He also recommended that they conduct benchmark research into New Zealand public beliefs. This was conducted by a Crosby Textor staffer. The research focused on embryonic perceptions about Labour that could be targeted by New Zealand Nationals in speeches, statements and campaign messages. This Crosby Textor research campaign method is described in the books as being ‘purely and openly about manipulation’.

Textor recommended that the New Zealand Nationals campaign on tax, welfare, education and immigration issues. The subsequent National Party campaign against ‘special interests’ is attributed to Textor’s influence. Textor’s techniques are described as follows:

The defining character of these techniques is that they attempt to get voters to act in ways that might not be in accord with their interests or even beliefs. The aim is not good policy, or leadership that unifies a country; the objective is manipulating enough voters, at the right time, so that their clients can achieve power.

And we know that in the past Textor was responsible for the disgraceful racist push-polling that occurred in the Northern Territory election. This is a man prepared to play the race politics card against Indigenous Australians in order to secure political advantage for the Liberal Party. It is no wonder that many businesses today are expressing a great deal of concern indeed about being associated with the campaign for which these people have been brought on board by the BCA and ACCI.

The matter of public importance today before the House speaks about threats and security. We heard talk about intimidation and who people associate with. We heard a lot about that. Coming from a Queenslander, that is pretty red hot. Coming from a Queensland Liberal Party member, particularly from the member for Moreton—but you could pick any one of them and there is a cloud over them—that is pretty red hot.

In the lead-up to the 2004 election the Prime Minister was the star attraction for a fundraising function to which a violent Brisbane pornographer, Scott Phillips, was invited. Phillips was facing charges at the time he attended the intimate fundraising function at a Queensland winery. The charges reportedly included torture and causing grievous bodily harm. Phillips is now in jail, having pleaded guilty to a range of violent crimes. He has been described by police as a ‘highly brazen, violent psychopath’—clearly not too brazen, too violent and too psychopathic to be invited to a Queensland Liberal Party fundraiser.

These people want to slur every decent trade union, every worker in this country, because of their illogical hatred of workers. In Hansard of 30 May, the member for Moreton said the following:

You do not hear anything from the members of the Australian Labor Party about workers. They don’t represent workers; they represent—I was going to say—

and he uses another seven-letter word beginning with W. That is how he described working people in this country. That is the member for Moreton’s track record when it comes to credibility.

It is not just the people they associate with; we also have extraordinary allegations of corrupt conduct, and investigations by the Federal Police. We have the member for Bonner paying back $24,000 but not saying how it was paid back or what for. We have no explanation to the parliament, no explanation of the role of the Prime Minister or of whether the money came from him or from donors. We have no explanation of that whatsoever. There is a cloud over all these Queenslanders, whether it is that example or whether it is the member for Ryan’s nine overseas trips in less than two years, funded by a slush fund, or whether it is the association with state campaigns that went on.

You would think that it could not get worse, but it may well, because coming to a parliament near you is the new candidate for Mitchell, and he is a beauty. He knocked off that hardworking member Alan Cadman, the current member for Mitchell. He’s got terrific form, this bloke. He has risen within the Liberal Party as the protege of David Clarke, the associate of Ljenko Urbancic and other fascist forces within the New South Wales Liberal Party. That is his association. This guy has not stopped at stacking out a local branch; he has stacked out an entire state branch. Now he has been rewarded with this preselection, which is quite extraordinary.

We hear a bit from the other side about loyalty. Well, the candidate that Alex Hawke beat in the preselection, David Elliott, was a staff member of the Prime Minister, the member for Bennelong, for four years. He was his campaign secretary in the 1990 and 1993 federal campaigns. He was the secretary of the Bennelong FEC of the Liberal Party for three years. And what reward does David Elliott, a decent Australian—even though I disagree with his politics—get? He gets run over the top of by Alex Hawke, this extremist who has been allowed to take the safest Liberal seat in New South Wales.

Once again, you do not have to ask us; ask John Brogden, who blamed Alex Hawke for the slurs and innuendos that led to his demise on a political level and, almost, on a tragically personal level. That was the Alex Hawke contribution to the New South Wales Liberal Party. Ask Nick Greiner; ask any of the others.

There is a fair bit of form with these people. On Lateline on 18 July 2006 there was a program about what these new Liberals coming in are like. It showed the Young Liberals at a conference, happy to be filmed chanting the following:

We’re racist, we’re sexist, we’re homophobic. We’re racist, we’re sexist, we’re homophobic.

And then singing:

Glory, glory, Liberal students, in history’s page let every stage—advance Australia fair …

Not only were they prepared to say all that; they were prepared to denigrate our national anthem—no respect whatsoever. When they were interviewed they said the following:

We will always rule, we will always be over everything.

That is the mentality that is coming through here. That is the mentality that has led the New South Wales Liberal Party to being the extremist rump that it is today. More and more, just as the state preselection saw the knocking-off of people like John Ryan and Patricia Forsythe, they are coming for anyone who is not right-wing enough for them. Think about that. Alan Cadman was knocked off because he was not right-wing enough for them. John Howard’s former staffer—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. IR Causley)—The member will refer to members by their title or by their seat.

Mr ALBANESE—and former FEC secretary was knocked off because he, David Elliott, was not right-wing enough for them. I very much fear for the sort of nation that we would become if ever the divisive elements were to gain more influence in the parliaments as opposed to just their domination in the Liberal Party machines, because they are prepared to divide Australians. That is what their industrial relations attack is about; it is fundamentally about attacking those working Australians who can least afford to defend themselves. It is not, under Work Choices legislation, the big, powerful tradesmen and people with strong union backgrounds who will suffer the most; the casual employees who are not unionised, women, particularly older women in the workplace, and people in small workplaces in our regional towns will suffer. This government is prepared to pass legislation to drag down the wages and conditions of those people and to transfer profits from workers to employers. Labor believes in uniting the nation. That is why we believe there needs to be a fair balance in industrial relations. That is why we believe there is a need to return to the social justice principles that have made this nation the greatest nation on earth, and we do not want Australia to be dragged down by the Alex Hawkes of this world.