15 February 2017
  • Legal action foreshadowed against CFMEU for defamation
  • Challenge to CFMEU to public debate in Whyalla on the future of steel industry

Senator Nick Xenophon says the "unprecedented" personal attacks against him by the union movement were "tragically wrong" given his track record on standing up for Australian made and Australian jobs, asbestos victims and workers safety.

The campaign by the CFMEU and SA Unions in relation to the ABCC amendment legislation before the parliament today which shortens the period for the Building Code to apply - has included billboards in Adelaide, a full page ad in the Advertiser and saturation ads on prime time TV, as well as robocalls throughout SA.

The billboard campaign reads "Nick Xenephon (sic) has sold out South Australia. He sold out the steel industry. He sold out on job safety. He sold out on apprentices. Xenephoney." 

Senator Xenophon has now sent a Concerns Notice to the CFMEU under the Defamation Act (SA) seeking an apology and retraction
of the defamatory material in the billboard. "This whole campaign is based on hideous lies, and you need to ask why the CFMEU, whom I have worked with constructively in the past, has gone 'nuclear' against me," said Nick. 

Senator Xenophon pointed out that: 


  • In 2004, he introduced industrial manslaughter legislation into the SA Parliament, which was not supported by the major parties. In 2005, he introduced legislation to make it easier for unions to enter workplaces on safety grounds. 
  • In 2005, his private members' bill dramatically overhauling asbestos compensation laws was passed by both houses of the SA Parliament, and has been law since 2006. 
  • Changes to Commonwealth procurement rules he negotiated last November will require the Commonwealth to use Australian standard certified products, taking into account workplace and environmental laws of where the goods are sourced, and to require the economic impact of purchases over $4 million to be taken into account. Labor's industry spokesperson, Senator Kim Carr, praised the changes at the time. 
  • He has co-sponsored Senate inquiries into the auto sector and steel industry with a view to saving manufacturing jobs.
  • In 2009, Senator Xenophon moved for a strengthening of anti-dumping rules to prevent below cost goods being dumped on Australian shores - rejected by both major parties.
  • Ensured the Building Code under the ABCC would specifically allow for the encouragement of the employment of apprentices.
  • He instigated a Senate inquiry in 2012 on foreign workers coming in on 457 visas and other visas, and has called for tighter rules to give preference to local jobs.
  • He secured a commitment and inquiry from the Federal Government to reform security of payments legislation - a common issue of concern amongst subcontractors and CFMEU members.

"These are just some of the issues I have advocated for over the years that expose the lies of the unions' campaign. It needs to be asked if this campaign is about damaging my vote and the vote of candidates I'll be supporting who will be running at next year's SA state election," Nick said. 

Senator Xenophon also pointed out that during last year's ABCC debate he pushed for a number of amendments that ensured unions would have the right to challenge decisions made by the ABCC in the courts (judicial review), and to require the ABCC to conduct itself impartially and fairly. This was done in consultation with the CFMEU.

"The CFMEU going 'nuclear' on me and running this campaign, based on lies, is a counter-productive way to spend their
members' money," Nick said. 

Senator Xenophon has also issued a public challenge to the CFMEU for their National Secretary, Michael O'Connor, to debate him in Whyalla on the steel industry. 

"The CFMEU has inundated Whyalla with robocalls and ads saying that somehow Iprefer Chinese steel. That is a disgusting lie. A proper debate in Whyalla with those who have pedalled that will at least give the people of Whyalla a chance to hear firsthand how wrong those claims are," said Nick.

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