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Lee Rhiannon's logic over Nigel Hadgkiss akin to ethical violence

The brazenness of Greens NSW Senator Lee Rhiannon in her speech about Nigel Hadgkiss has raised eyebrows.
The brazenness of Greens NSW Senator Lee Rhiannon in her speech about Nigel Hadgkiss has raised eyebrows.  Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

When it comes to ethical violence, the Liberals are adept at bastardry, Labor is legendary for incubating hatred and vengeance, and the Nationals, benign by comparison, have a weakness for pork-barrelling. The Greens manage to trump this field.

For the past week we've heard the Greens rage about the supposed character assassination of Professor Gillian Triggs, the President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, because her performances before Senate hearings in November and February have received legitimate cross-examination, which never crossed over to personal attacks.

It was the Greens who chose to cross that line. The line was not just crossed, it was obliterated.  Senator Lee Rhiannon, Greens NSW, delivered a speech on Tuesday night that was smearing at its most abject.

Under the privilege of Parliament on Tuesday night, Sr Rhiannon began a speech with these words: "Nigel Hadgkiss, director of the Fair Work Building and Construction inspectorate, has framed his career and, indeed, his life, as a crime fighter, exposing corruption, drug runners and criminals."

"[But his career] is about reducing the pay workers take home at the end of the week and reducing the rights of workers to ensure they have a safe workplace …"

"It is only legitimate that Australians know who he is ... In 1989, as a Winston Churchill Fellow, the Hadgkiss CV tells us he studied methods for combatting organised crime in Northern Ireland …

"The Royal Ulster Constabulary - known as the RUC - was the local police force in Northern Ireland until 2001… In 1989, the RUC… was involved with paramilitaries in carrying out brutal crimes, including murder… There is no suggestion that Hadgkiss was involved in crimes committed by the RUC. However, why does he promote this visit as a study trip to examine methods of fighting organised crime?"

"When one reads about the extent of collusion between the RUC and paramilitaries, it is hard to imagine what form combatting organised crime could have taken in Northern Ireland in 1989 and what a visiting police officer from Australia would have studied… I urge Hadgkiss to provide details about his past… We do know that Hadgkiss' career has been under a cloud at least since the 1990s …"

Here is Sr Rhiannon's logic: Nigel Hadgkiss studied in Ulster in 1989. Paramilitants committed murders in Ulster in 1989. Paramilitants were linked with the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Therefore Mr Hadgkiss needs to explain what black arts he was studying in Northern Ireland.

Worse, the smear was delivered in support of the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union, which for decades has been riddled with systemic corruption, intimidation and violence. This is the union that has sub-contracted bikie gangs as enforcers.

Sr Rhiannon's brazenness shocked the government member on chamber duty, Nationals Senator Barry O'Sullivan: "I have only been here a year, but tonight's presentation was one of the most scurrilous abuses of the protection of this Senate I have seen."

A similarly methodical attempt at character assassination of Hadgkiss had been made last Thursday by Labor's designated parliamentary apologist, rationaliser and attack dog for the CFMEU, Senator Doug Cameron.

The senator engaged in yet another tortuous inquisition of Mr Hadgkiss, asking 128 questions, all suggestive that he has colluded with construction companies. Labor's tactics are a clear message of intimidation to senior public servants whose jobs involve investigating union corruption and intimidation.

Sr Cameron: "Have you attended a board-room meeting and that company has been involved in litigation that the fair work building commission has taken, against, say, a union?

After about an hour of this, Sr Cameron suddenly fell silent when the subject turned to the intimidation of Mr Hadgkiss' staff, especially his female staff.    

Mr Hadgkiss: "We have 25 documented cases of serious security matters involving my staff in recent years. Invariably these involve 'scab sheets' where the identity of investigators is put up - their personal details, their home and their telephone numbers - particularly female staff members are rung at home at night and abused.

Sr O'Sullivan: "You are sitting awfully quietly there, Doug."

Sr Bridget McKenzie (committee chair): "What about social media - Facebook or Twitter?"

Mr Hadgkiss: "Yes, that obviously is used, references such as 'dogs' and other delightful terms towards my staff."

Sr McKenzie: "It is clear that the CFMEU and its ilk are actually engaged in behaviour that is very likely to destroy people's lives."

Mr Hadgkiss: "It has destroyed people's lives."

Sr Cameron remained silent.

Twitter: @Paul_Sheehan_

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