ABC24 interview – Union corruption, ABCC, early election rumours, jobs, housing

ABC24 Capital Hill interview – union corruption, ABCC, early election rumours, jobs, housing

GREG JENNETT, HOST: As with everything in this Parliament and as Chris was just alluding to, the fate of that Building and Construction Commission will ultimately rest on pure mathematics. To pass the Bill the Government needs at least six of the eight crossbenchers to support it and it’s well short of the mark at present. There are just two votes that appear to be in the bag, one of them is the South Australian Family First Senator Bob Day. Well Bob Day you came from the housing industry before politics, it seems fairly clear that you’ve made up your mind about the Building and Construction Commission. Why is it so necessary in your view?

BOB DAY, FAMILY FIRST SENATOR: Well I supported the Bill last time and I will support it again this time, it should never have been abolished. It was like taking customs officers out of airports and criminal activity skyrocketed. We need to bring them back.

GREG JENNETT: So lots of your crossbench colleagues are wanting more information, they want a briefing on that secret redacted volume of the Royal Commission Report. Is that material to you in any way?

BOB DAY: Well no. I respect the Commissioners recommendations that that be kept confidential so it doesn’t compromise any potential prosecutions.

GREG JENNETT: So even if it is offered you would not be taking up any briefing or reading?

BOB DAY: No I won’t. I don’t want to read it. I don’t want to see those names or even the redacted version. The Royal Commissioner has been very clear in his recommendations that that part be kept confidential to ensure that any prosecutions and any action that is taken as a result of evidence taken in the Royal Commission is not compromised.

GREG JENNETT: And so do you think its bad in policy that the government seems prepared to offer some form of briefing or redacted reading to other Senators?

BOB DAY: Well, the Government is between a rock and a hard place, you know, they’ve got two options here, they’ve got a bad option or a worse option. Clearly they’ve taken what they think is the bad option and that’s offering to show the confidential report. They think that the worse option would be not to show it but I disagree with that. I don’t think it was a good idea to do that but I can certainly understand the Government’s predicament.

GREG JENNETT: Taking the Greens out of the equation there are, of course, eight of you on the crossbench, it looks like the Government has only got about two of the necessary six votes they would need to pass this. Is that your reading of the situation?

BOB DAY: Well they’ve got two confirmed supporters that’s myself and Senator Leyonhjelm, but from what I’ve heard and seen I think they’re reasonably close with some of the others and a long long way away with a couple of the other crossbenchers, but I can’t comment on that.

GREG JENNETT: Obviously the prospect of double dissolution arises if this is rejected. Does that play on your mind in any way?

BOB DAY: No not at all. This is about this particular issue it’s really important. There are a lot of people hurting very badly as a result of the activity that goes on on some of these commercial and industrial building sites that needs to be fixed, needs to be off the table and then they can address a number of other activities and corruption. Corruption is really corrosive, it’s debilitating for honest employers and honest employees who don’t participate in that sort of activity.

GREG JENNETT: You’re saying a lot of people are hurting but in what way does this filter down the line to every day trade unionists or every day workers?

BOB DAY: Well you talk to many many people who gave evidence to the Royal Commission on the devastating effect it had on their lives and the way they cant go about their business. They were intimidated, they were coerced, and of course then the cost, the cost explosion that passes through on to consumers because it means buildings cost a lot lot more to build and that then is played through in the rent and the cost to consumers.

GREG JENNETT: But what of the Labour argument that says where crimes are committed there are police forces in every state? Indeed there’s still an ongoing investigatory roll from the Royal Commission itself, why do you need this freestanding watchdog?

BOB DAY: Well because every state also, as well as having policemen on the beat and in patrol cars and constables, you also have a Star Force and a special branch of the police that deal with special cases. You don’t send two constables in short sleeved shirts up to a bikie fortress for example and demand to search the place. You have very special police forces, and this is a very special case and you need a special group, and the ABCC clearly fulfilled that roll previously and like I said, when it was abolished criminal activity went up and they need to be brought back.

GREG JENNETT: And the proposed powers that it has many say are draconian, are you suggesting they could even go further?

BOB DAY: I’m saying that special cases need special forces like they do with the Star Force. I think the previous activity at the ABCC was not draconian they dealt with matters at hand as they had to be dealt with and from what I hear Senator Leyonhjelm’s proposing a sunset clause so that there is a definite ending to the legislation. So I think that is a reasonable case as well.

GREG JENNETT: Now just more broadly as we head into the political year of 2016, the Turnbull Government is going to want to show results that it can get an agenda up and then pass it, what do you think that means for crossbench Senators like yourself, greater willingness to negotiate to get results?

BOB DAY: Well for this crossbench Senator, I was elected on a platform of ‘every family a job and a house’ and that’s been Family First’s rock solid foundational principles. If every family in Australia had a job and owned their own home then I dare say that Australia and the economy wouldn’t be in the mess that it’s in. So I’ll just keep pushing that agenda for more employment participation, more jobs particularly for the unemployed. Somebody has to go in to bat for the unemployed and I’m not seeing much of that at the moment. Someone has to go into bat for housing affordability and I’m not seeing much of that at the moment either.

GREG JENNETT: The dynamic of an election year, does it invariably mean more pressure on the likes of yourselves on the crossbench?

BOB DAY: Well it possibly does, that’s hanging over us, that if there’s a double dissolution how many of us would be re-elected…

GREG JENNETT: Would you?

BOB DAY: Well who knows, that would be up to the voters. I would like to think so but we’ll wait and see.

GREG JENNETT: Mathematically the chances actually increase, don’t they?

BOB DAY: Yes they do, it halves the quota and we’ll see how it goes.

GREG JENNETT: Alright, Bob Day, let’s see how the year plays out, thank you.

BOB DAY: Thanks very much.

Image: ABC News/Jenny Magee

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