Bill Shorten disagrees with the new secretary of the peak trade union movement over her claim there is no problem in breaking ‘unjust’ laws.
Government members from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull down criticised Sally McManus’ comments on Wednesday night, just hours after she was elected as ACTU secretary.
Ms McManus said there’s ‘no way’ the body will distance itself from the CFMEU, which faces more than 100 separate legal battles for breaking laws or showing contempt of court.
‘I believe in the rule of law where the law is fair and right but when it’s unjust, I don’t think there’s a problem with breaking it,’ she told Leigh Sales on ABC’s 7.30 program.
Ms McManus said laws around taking industrial action were wrong.
‘It shouldn’t be so hard for workers in our country to take industrial action,’ she said.
‘Quite often these workers have stopped work because a worker has been killed on a building site. That union gets fined more than the companies that actually kill workers.’
Employment Minister Michaelia Cash urged Mr Shorten to immediately repudiate the comments, labelling them outrageous.
‘This is an extraordinary admission by a newly minted union leader that she believes she is above the law and that unions can pick and choose when they obey the law and when they do not,’ she said.
But the Labor leader told Fairfax Media he disagrees with her comments.
‘If you don’t like a law, if you think a law is unjust, use the democratic process to get it changed,’ he said.
‘That’s the great thing about living in a country like Australia. That’s what democracy is about.
‘We believe in changing bad laws, not breaking them.’
Ms McManus, the existing ACTU vice president, was on Wednesday elected to replace Dave Oliver after he announced his resignation as secretary in January.
She becomes the first woman to hold the position in the organisation’s 90-year history and will work alongside president Ged Kearney.
But Cabinet minister Christopher Pyne was unrelenting, saying her comments show she is not up to the job.
‘What Sally McManus has said is the kind of anarchic Marxist clap trap we used to hear from anarchists at Adelaide University in the 1980s,’ he told ABC radio.
‘If that’s what the secretary of the ACTU thinks, she has no place being there and she should resign and give the job to someone who has a modern, forward-looking view.’