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Compulsory Union Membership Motion

Cassy O'Connor MP

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Tags: Women, Anti-Discrimination Act

That the House -

  1. Notes the Tasmanian Labor Party's rule 'appointments to electorate or ministerial offices of State and Federal members of the Parliamentary Labor Party must be members of the Party, and a financial member of the relevant Union'.
  2. Further notes that to get a taxpayer-funded job with the Labor Party you need to have paid membership fees to the Labor Party and the Unions, maintain that membership for the period of their employment, and obey the rules of both organisations.
  3. Further notes that the Labor Party rules effectively enforcing compulsory union and party membership are a potential breach of Federal and/or State legislation.
  4. Calls on the Labor Party to act immediately to remove this discriminatory requirement from its Tasmanian Labor Party rules.


Ms O'CONNOR (Denison - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Deputy Speaker, there was not much that I could disagree with in Mr O'Byrne's contribution. We are going to propose an amendment to the original motion because on its face value the original motion is worthy of support.

Mr Deputy Speaker, I move that the following new paragraphs be added-


After paragraph 4 –

Acknowledges that freedom of expression and freedom from discrimination are crucial to a healthy workplace culture. After paragraph 6 - Notes the Liberal Government's intention to refer the Labor Party to the Anti-Discrimination Commission.

After paragraph 7 -

Reaffirms its strong support of the state's Anti-Discrimination Act 1998.


That is the Anti-Discrimination Act that the Liberals want to substantially weaken in order to provide religious belief as cover for vile discriminatory language.

That will disappoint some colleagues in the Labor Party. As a point of principle, to require people who believe in the Labor Party or a member of the Labor Party enough to want to work for them to join the Labor Party and a union is potentially discriminatory. I understand what you are saying about this not being necessarily enforced. In certain circumstances it is not enforced if an elected representative, for example, wants an employee of a certain skill set so much that they are not going to force them to join the party or a union. That said, everyone should be a member of a union in Australia.

Mr Hidding - And a union. Both a party and a union.

Ms O'CONNOR - That is right. I reflected earlier on my experience working for the former federal member for Denison, Duncan Kerr, when he was the justice minister. Duncan would dearly have loved me to join the Labor Party when I was working with him in Canberra. He respected the fact that I said, 'I do not believe in the Labor Party enough to join it. I believe in you, Duncan, and I will be loyal to you to the very end'. I will continue to be loyal to Duncan. I would not join the Labor Party and Duncan respected that and did not compel me to join. He did come back every couple of months and put a Labor Party membership form on my desk.

It is hard to escape the conclusion that this motion is only politics but we look at things at face value. At face value this is, on the basis of freedom of association, worthy of support.

It was quite galling listening to Mr Hidding give the House a lecture on discrimination when he comes from a party that has been systematically discriminating against women and minorities since its inception. A party that sought to substantially weaken the Anti-Discrimination Act 1998 in order to provide religious belief as an exemption for speaking vile, hurtful, discriminatory language to someone on the basis of a perceived difference. It is hypocritical in the extreme to have the Liberal Party lecturing the House about discrimination.

While in the Labor Party an alignment with Labor values and an understanding of the contribution of the union movement to the working lives of all Australians is an important prerequisite to getting a job, in the Liberal Party you do have to question what sort of values are required for people who want to work in the Liberal Party. For someone who wants to preselected in the Liberal Party in Tasmania the only values they apparently need to have is a capacity to butter up to Senator Eric Abetz, who still wields enormous influence over the preselection of candidates for the Liberal Party. This is why we have not had a female Liberal elected representative at the federal level from Tasmania since senator Jocelyn Newman. It is hard to escape the conclusion that the skill set that is required to work for the Liberals is a complete belief in yourself, a complete belief in the individual, a degree of self-interest and selfishness which rides above many other important matters of human rights,

Mr Shelton - Is that why Labor put Mr Short in because there were no males on the Labor ticket.

Ms O'CONNOR - What a ridiculous thing to say. Sorry, Mr Shelton, there are times when it would have been better if you had kept your mouth shut. We have just had the first female Prime Minister in Canberra in Julia Gillard who your federal colleague, Tony Abbott, spent the entire term in opposition vilifying because she was a woman. The deputy federal leader of the Labor Party, Tanya Plibersek, is a woman. The leader of opposition business in the Senate, Penny Wong, is a woman. So do not, just do not. You have talented women running a mile from your foul party.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - Through the Chair, Ms O'Connor. Ms O'CONNOR - A mile because they are treated like dirt. Who can forget the first Abbott cabinet, one woman in the first Abbott cabinet, and who was the minister for women? Tony Abbott. So do not, just do not.

Ms O'Byrne - But he was very worried about women while they do their ironing.

Ms O'CONNOR - That is right.

Mr Shelton - Tell me why you dumped Lisa Singh for Mr Short.

Ms O'CONNOR - Spare us. Spare us. The one really talented member of Malcolm Turnbull's cabinet, Julie Bishop, the only woman of any real substance, although Marise Payne is apparently okay, ran a mile. You lost Julie Bishop because she was shafted. Did you read those WhatsApp messages between your federal Liberal colleagues shafting Julie Bishop because she is a woman?

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - Through the Chair, Ms O'Connor. I am not going to ask you again.

Ms O'CONNOR - Give us a break.

Anyway where was I? It is clear that there are overt efforts on the part of the Labor Party to make sure that people who want to work for the Labor Party are members of the Labor Party and members of a union. They are overt. They are upfront about it. We disagree that it should be a requirement of working for any political party, but at least they are upfront about it. In the Liberal Party, it is covert. It is whatever is in Eric Abetz's folder in his office. We know he collects information on people. For those progressive small 'l' Liberals, and I can name a couple of them but I am not going to drop them in it in this place, who have displeased Eric, they will never get anywhere in the party because he discriminates against people with any shred of progressive values. It is covert in the Liberal Party. It is much more corrosive.

To qualify for a job in the Liberal Party, particularly to be preselected as a candidate, you just need to support Eric Abetz and not be a woman. It is ironic that the Liberals come in here and have a whack at Labor over their longstanding connection to the union movement when all that speaks to you people is money, corporate donations, donations from foreign governments. Only very recently you stopped taking dirty tobacco money. You took millions of dollars from a pokies lobby in the lead-up to the state election. It is money and that is the set of values people who run for you and work for you are required to have. It is a party that will always prioritise the private interest over the public interest. It is with reluctance that we moved an amendment to the motion and hope the amendment will be supported because it would be good to have on the record the Liberals supporting the Anti-Discrimination Act 1998. We know they will be back for another bite just as they were in the federal parliament with the race discrimination laws and we will be here ready for them to stand up for the rights of all Tasmanians.


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