Australian furniture manufacturing; Tony Abbott’s Royal Commission



FRIDAY, 10 JULY 2015


SUBJECT/S: Australian furniture manufacturing; Tony Abbott’s Royal Commission


SENATOR KIM CARR, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HIGHER EDUCATION, RESEARCH, INNOVATION AND INDUSTRY: Thank you very much for coming. Today I am here to address the furnishing trade fair, which is an extremely important source of employment for over 200,000 Australians, who are deeply concerned about the decline in the level of investment in Australian Manufacturing; and if we are concerned about the future of this country we have got to be concerned of jobs in manufacturing.


The Abbott Government does not have any interest. The Abbott Government has cut support for industry programs and undermined the employment of tens of thousands of Australians.


Now the employment situation is only going to get a lot worse as the manufacturing industry in automotive in particular is hit hard and we see a tsunami of job losses coming through the system particularly in Victoria.  We are already seeing the effects of that in South Australia.


This is a profoundly disturbing development for Australian families, for manufacturing workers and it is incumbent on the political system to respond to this jobs crisis and this crisis in manufacturing.  That is what we will be doing as the Opposition and it is up to the Government to actually do something as well.


On the other matter in the news today there has been considerable discussion on the wash up of the royal commission. This is a political inquisition, an inquisition that has sought to smear and tarnish the reputation of Mr Abbott’s political opponents.


It’s acting entirely consistent with its specifications and one can only wonder where it leads Australia? We are turning a very dark corner here when it comes to the use of state power to silence political opponents. We have seen it now with the ABC, we have seen it now with ALP and we are seeing it with the trade union movement. This is a Government that is setting a shocking precedent. The Labor Party when it returns to office will be under incredible pressure to respond to this precedent.


It is the sort of issues that will make a very good royal commission, such as inquiries how the Liberal Party funds its operations, its fundraising arm has of course has been subject to considerable attention in recent times with its links to the Mafia and I can see a circumstance where a Labor Government will be under pressure to respond to the precedent that Mr Abbott has set with his Royal Commission.


Are there any questions?           


JOURNALIST: Is Mr Shorten’s reputation been damaged in the last 48 hours?  


CARR: The Royal Commission is acting entirely consistent with its specifications, that’s what it’s designed to do.


It’s designed to ensure that the political opponents are silenced, the political opponents are smeared, and what we have seen at the Royal Commission hearing is the behaviour of what one would expect from a Royal Commission set up by this Government to inquire into its political opponents.


Mr Shorten has performed extremely well at that Royal Commission and we will expect that there will be other attempts being made to silence Labor. That will fail.


The Labor Party will not fold, we will press on. We are determined to remove this Government from office because this Government is not acting in the national interest; it is not acting in the interest of Australians and is seeking to use state power in a way that we haven’t seen in this country and we do in other countries. These are all the hall marks of a totalitarian regime trying to put its political opponents on trial in a process which is not even a court, it’s a political inquisition.


JOURNALIST: Senator, you say that you are determined to return to government but Bill Shorten is already unpopular with voters isn’t it going to be even harder now to lift his standing?


CARR: Well I can point to the fact that on any measure of public opinion since that you have raised it the Labor Party will be highly competitive. Now Mr Shorten has come under sustained assault by a politically inspired instrument of the Abbott Government.


We will get through this without any great difficultly. I have got no doubt that the Government will try on other measures.  It will seek to destroy the trade union movement and destroy the wages and conditions of workers.


I look forward to Mr Shorten being able to put his record of performance in defending wages and conditions up against that of Mr Abbott who is the architect of WorkChoices. He is the man who wanted to get rid of the no disadvantage test; he is the man who throughout his political career made it a hallmark of his contribution to destroy trade unions and workers’ rights and conditions.


I have absolutely no doubt to the future, we will overcome the difficulties that the Government is putting in our place at the moment. You will have to expect given the smears that have been levelled that there will be this sort of press comment that you see.


The Royal Commission yesterday indicated that it wanted its answers yes or no, they wanted the Leader of the Opposition to play their game in the way that they wanted to play and we simply won’t be doing that.


The Labor Party is determined to ensure that we do our job to defend workers, their rights, their conditions. We will ensure that the Labor Party is highly competitive at the next election and Mr Abbott’s attempts to smear and silence will fail.


JOURNALIST: So Senator you agree with Brendan O’Connor’s comments that Commission Hayden was being prejudicial in his conduct?


CARR: I thought the Commission yesterday was acting to specification, that’s what it’s designed to do. The only substantive issue that came out yesterday was the comments of the Royal Commissioner himself.


Well one has to see those in the political context of this whole inquiry, Mr Shorten was responding to the political inquisition that has been set up by the Abbott Government and I’m not surprised that the Commissioner acted in the way he did. I’m deeply disappointed, deeply disturbed, that in this country we can act like a banana republic and put political opponents on a quasi-trail, of course this is not a court of law, it doesn’t act like a court of law, the proper rights, terms of cross–examination and the rules of evidence are not applied, it’s all too easy for them to run the material through the newspapers in such a way as to ensure that people don’t get a fair go and of course it was capped off yesterday with the performance of the Commission itself.


JOURNALIST: There are some reports that some of your colleagues have said that Mr Shorten has lost some bark, do you agree with that?


CARR: There is no doubt that the Commission will have an impact in the immediate term, that’s what it’s designed to do. There is no doubt that the Royal Commission’s report will be produced just before the election, that’s what it’s designed to do. There is no doubt that this commission is there to perform a political function.


We don’t see any discussion about what employers are doing; we don’t see any understanding of what the realities are in industrial relations. It is all run as if there was some contract law convention, nothing to do with the realities of economic power, nothing to do with the realities of political power, nothing to do with the way that industrial relations is actually practised in this country.


There is nothing to consider in what is a very moderate union that is the AWU, being assaulted because it isn’t militant enough.


I have had some of my friends tell me that they will need to increase their claims, because they don’t want to be drag before the political royal commission because they are not doing enough to pursue their claims in industry.  This is the consequence of what happens; Mr Abbott is reckless. He said that he would be reckless before he took on the Prime Ministership, no one anticipated that he would act in the way that he has.


But what we do now see is that these precedents are being set and a future Labor Government will be under enormous pressure to respond to the precedent that is being set.  Industrially you will see organisation that are being concerned about working cooperatively, working to ensure that wages and conditions are improved and enterprises are advanced for fear that one day there might be an inquiry as to whether the trade union movement has been militant enough.                   


JOURNALIST: So Senator your basically saying that if the Labor Party gets back into government - and I notice that you are saying when not if - will bring in a Royal Commission into the Liberal parties political donations, is that what you are saying?


CARR: What I’m saying is that there will be no question that the Labor Party will be under enormous pressure to respond to the precedent that has been set by Mr Abbott. There will be a lot of Labor Governments around this country that will be under political pressure to respond to the political inquisition that the Liberal Party has set up, we have seen three Labor leaders now dragged up before these show trials in an attempt to discredit the Labor Party.


JOURNALIST: Sorry Senator where this pressure coming from?


CARR: There is no doubt that the Liberal Party has set up these inquiries for a political end, these are political inquisition they are not courts of law, they are responding as political instruments of the Government.


JOURNALIST: So why set up one of your own is why I’m asking? 


CARR: What I’m saying is the politicalprecedent that has now been established will produce enormous pressure on the Labor Party to respond when we’re in government. 


JOURNALIST: Sorry Senator I just don’t follow, where is this pressure coming from?


CARR: It will come from this community; it will come from the Labour Movement. Rank-and-file Labor members want to know why in this sort of country that the Labor Party, the Labour Movement and its leaders can be treated in this way by such a partisan Government. This is not the tradition of Australia that we have all been brought up to believe as proper, this is a Government that has torn up the rule books and it will cause enormous political pressure within the political system  for this precedent to be responded to.


JOURNALIST: Will this be addressed at the National Conference[inaudible]     


CARR: These are questions that will be raised through the Labor Party itself, but there is no doubt that there has been a considerable level of public interest in how the Liberal Party raises its money. We have seen in recent times exposes of the Mafia links to the Liberal Party. These surely are matters of deep public interest and require a much more thorough investigation that what we have seen to date. Now the precedent has been set, I expect the Labor Party will be under enormous pressure to respond.      


JOURNALIST: Can I get you to respond to Bruce Billson’s comments; now he likened Mr Shorten’s actions like asking a trusted mate to buy you and car and then finding out that he was getting a cut as part of the deal. What do you make of that?


CARR: Now I notice that it was Mr Billson who was mentioned in connection to resent fundraising activities within the Liberal Party, we have had former Ministers whose actions in Government have been raised in regards to links in fund raising activities. There are some substantial issues that need to be considered here.


It’s all very well for Liberal Party politicians to be throwing dirt at people, but they have got to appreciate that people in glass houses shouldn’t be throwing stones.


JOURNALIST: I’m sure that most Australians are kind of sick of these commissions being set up for politicians to have a go at one another. Why would you follow suit when you get into government by setting up a similar inquiry, wouldn’t you lose the standing that you hoping to get in the things you are saying now?


CARR: My point to you is that this is grossly improper, what this Government doing is seeking to do is undermine the fundamentals of the Westminster system of government, now there is a convention when a government losses office it is assessed publicly on its record but there is not an inquiry established to silence opponents, to smear and by innuendo suggest that the former Government has acted improperly.


Now this is a circumstance where not just the former Government, but the political leadership of the Labor Party is being attached for their behaviour before they were Members of Parliament. This is a situation where the leader of the Labor Party has been asked to make comment on relationship with people that he has met at the shopping centre, that he has met at the races, whose former wife has been perused as to whether or not  she has any secret benefits from her relationship with the Labor leader. These are actions that are totally inappropriate and more consistent with the actions of a totalitarian state or a banana republic                        


JOURNALIST: So you never engaged in this misconduct when you were back in government? 


CARR: We did not. We didn’t sack secretaries of departments, we didn’t seek to silence the ABC, and we didn’t seek to set up political inquiries into the former Howard Government. We behaved properly and responsibly, we perused the arguments with our opponents in the Parliament, and through normal processes of public discourse. We did not assent to establish a witch hunt, a show trial. Which as I say is more consistent with the worst forms of government from around the world.     


JOURNALIST: What about in a future Labor government now that you mention precedent?


CARR:  There is no doubt that the circumstances that this Government have created change the political dialogue in this country. What we are seeing in this country is something that we should not let slide. This is behaviour that is totally inappropriate from a Government seeking to establish a political show trial, a political inquisition in the leadership of their opponents.


This is an attempt to silence, to smear, to slander and we won’t be tolerating it.     



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