E&OE TRANSCRIPT –
SUBJECT/S: Union merger; Australian Building and Construction Commission.
ROSS GREENWOOD: Anyway, let’s go to the man who appointed Steve McBurney as the head of the Australian Building and Construction Commission: the Minister for Workplace and Deregulation, Craig Laundy is on the line right now. Many thanks for your time, Craig.
MINISTER LAUNDY: And Ross, thank you, and they don’t pay any tax, mate – not one cent.
ROSS GREENWOOD: Yes. So, let’s go to the whole issue about unions that are willingly and deliberately saying that they will fight and they will deliberately break the law. Now, you may not like the laws, but they are the laws. You can’t just willy-nilly go out and break them.
MINISTER LAUNDY: Well, Ross, the absurdity of Sally McManus’ statements, which you’ve played for your listeners, is she’s talking about, in democracy, this is what you do. Guess what? The underpinning of democracy is the rule of law, and you might not like them, but that’s what they are, and you abide by them or you get prosecuted. But here’s the kicker: you now have this super union, with revenue – as you’ve said – near $150 million, and the CFMEU – the most militant of our unions; all involved in this merger are militant – that, with $13 million in fines over the past few years; 77 officials, as of end of last year, in front of the courts for breaching industrial laws. Thirteen million on 150, the risk is they see this as a cost of doing business.
ROSS GREENWOOD: So, that being the case, they clearly wish to use their industrial muscle, plus their now financial muscle, because it will be significant financial muscle that they can either back the Labor Party with, and therefore have the Labor Party bend to their own tune, but the second part about this is, say, for example, the Australian Building and Construction Commission – you’ve just appointed a new commissioner there, the head of that – but the fact of the matter is, the Labor Party, at the behest of the CFMEU and the MUA, will destroy the Australian Building and Construction Commission if they come to power.
MINISTER LAUNDY: As they did with the public interest test, which was in place pre coming to power in 2007, which would have stopped this. I mean, this is the part that sticks in my craw more than anything else, Ross. You are seeing them clear the way, the Labor Party, for what’s happened today. Now, the real risk - and this I hope is adequately reported and reported properly tomorrow - the risk of this super union now, and why I’m calling on tonight and tomorrow when you see my statements, the bosses of these unions do a backflip and a 180 on how they conduct themselves – is they are now putting ports together with construction sites. They effectively, in the construction industry which accounts for 9 per cent of our GDP and about the same of our nation’s employment, they control access to the whole supply chain. If they want to continue with their historic behaviour – and you’ve got federal court judges, not me, federal court judges calling them the most recidivous corporate offender in Australian history; a quote from Judge Salvatore. If they don’t change their behaviour, they can stuff this economy in ways we haven’t even thought of.
ROSS GREENWOOD: Okay. So, Craig Laundy, you’ve been around the traps long enough. What chance is there that this union will change its ways, that its officials will change their ways?
MINISTER LAUNDY: Ross, I’d like to hope, I’d like to cross my fingers in hope, but however, if they continue acting and conducting themselves the way they have – and I don’t hold out great hope with that clip you just played, I hadn’t heard that – yet the damage they will do- you know, the great- and this is problem. I keep saying to your listeners, you had me on last week. If you elect the Labor Party in this current form, they have laid down arms. The only reforming treasurer we’ve ever had in this country has been Paul Keating from the Labor side of the fence. He must be mortified at where they have gone to in industrial relations, given the reforms that him and Bob Hawke brought in – and John Button, to his credit – through the 1980s. They are going to dial the dial back to the 1970s, and coming off- and we’ve got to keep selling the economic message here. We have got a record year of job growth creation in this economy. You elect this crew, and you let these unions run rampant because they’re off the leash in ways we’d never seen. They are calling the tunes, not the Labor Party. You place your job and the job of your children at risk, Ross, and I can’t be more frank than that.
ROSS GREENWOOD: Okay. So, Craig Laundy, take me to the Australian Building and Construction Commission, and a few people need to be reminded as to why its existence is important, because ultimately it meant that you had an umpire who could intervene in and on building sites to make certain that construction – including infrastructure – was rolled out in Australia in a timely manner, that it was not disrupted. This is the reason why the ACTU and why the CFMEU in particular have been so determined to break it down again.
MINISTER LAUNDY: Exactly, and then why we were so determined to reinstate it. And I note, in your intro you went through the credentials of the Commissioner. What you didn’t say there is that the Commissioner was one of the lead officials in the AFL Umpires Union that got them more flexible and workable arrangements in their workplace.
ROSS GREENWOOD: That’s because I didn’t know that, as a matter of fact. That’s an interesting statement as well.
MINISTER LAUNDY: Yes. And Ross, the staggering thing today; he came out and said some strong, middle of the road comments overnight about the rule of law in the workplace and the importance of it, and he gets - straight away today in typical union fashion – lambasted as a puppet of ours. He is there on his own credentials, standing on his own two feet. But if you don’t have this- and you know, here we have, as I say, 77 officials before the courts; stop works, you know, all sorts of industrial disputes happening that actually, you know- and this is the other hypocrisy of the unions. They talk about workplace health and safety as their overarching commentary. How can you have a safe workplace when you’ve got militant unions and the thugs that do their bidding on the frontlines intimidating people? And that’s what these 77 officials are charged with. You can go through them line by line, but you’ve got non-unionised workers on somewhat unionised worksites being intimidated and bullied into joining unions or getting off the site on a daily basis, and that’s exactly what the ABCC has been put there to remedy.
ROSS GREENWOOD: Craig Laundy, the Minister for Workplace and Deregulation in Australia. He’s also got small and family business as well, but it’s about that workplace issue that is most important at the moment, and also the man who did appoint, Stephen McBurney, into that position. And Craig, we appreciate your time here on the program.
MINISTER LAUNDY: Ross, I am guessing, mate, we are going to be talking to you a fair bit between now and the next election, and I look forward to it.
ROSS GREENWOOD: Craig Laundy, appreciate your time. We should also tell you that we did invite both the CFMEU and also Paddy Crumlin from the Maritime Union onto the program - we didn’t hear back from either of them - to try and put them on, because we did want to get the union side in regards to this merger, because it is such a big deal, I’ve got to tell you. And the potential power of that combination with revenues of $146 million a year - and as Craig just said, pays no tax – is important.