Anthony Albanese grilled over CFMMEU in testy first question time as PM

Hopes of a more civil Parliament were dashed in the first question time.

Hopes of a more civil Parliament were dashed in the first question time. Photo: AAP

Anthony Albanese had a tough first question time as Prime Minister on Wednesday with little sign of the hoped-for return to civility on the floor of Parliament.

In a series of testy confrontations, Opposition Leader Peter Dutton and his shadow cabinet peppered the PM with questions over the government’s proposed abolition of the Australian Building and Construction Commission.

Mr Dutton was quick to ask the Prime Minister whether he had met with any of the union bosses accused of “criminal behaviour, including sexual assault, harassment and rape”. 

Mr Albanese described the query as “smear tactics”.

“If he wants to name somebody, he is perfectly entitled to. But what he is not entitled to do is to engage in that sort of smear tactics,” he told Parliament.

As the session became increasingly heated, Mr Albanese was accused of “prioritising the interest of union bosses” when he was asked about the prosecution of a CFMMEU official for allegedly shoving a woman on a worksite.

“I’ve never met this bloke, never heard of him,” the Prime Minister responded, adding, “if someone commits a crime, they should be charged with a crime”.

Mr Albanese accused the ABCC of wasting taxpayers’ money for enforcing bans on union posters, and women’s toilets on worksites. He also took a swing at the opposition for asking about it.

“The ABCC spent over $500,000 of taxpayers’ money, enforcing a blanket ban on putting stickers and posters with union logos up on worksites,” he told Parliament.

“The Federal Court said this about the ABCC or its prosecutions, labelled them unnecessarily inflammatory and conducted as a blood sport,” Mr Albanese said.

“Politics should be better than that, but I am not surprised that the opposition isn’t.”

Acts of cowardice

Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil, meanwhile, used question time to revisit the release of a damning report that found Scott Morrison pressured public servants into releasing information about an asylum-seeker boat arrival on election day.

“This was a disgraceful, unprecedented act that never should have happened,” Ms O’Neil said.

The report released last week found that the former Coalition government leaked information about a suspected asylum-seeker boat entering Australian waters to select journalists against the express advice of the Department of Home Affairs.

“This was the former government sabotaging protocols to protect Operation Sovereign Borders and protect people in uniforms,” Ms O’Neil said.

“If you do not want to be accused of acts of cowardice and breaching your duty and the trust you owe to the Australian people, don’t do it,” she added.

“Don’t do what is in this report.”

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