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Brush-off: Hunter One Nation Senator Brian Burston in his new Toronto office after a Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union attack against him over apprenticeships. Picture: Marina Neil.HUNTER One Nation Senator Brian Burston has dismissed a targeted union attack against him over apprenticeshipsas “Labor politics”, and warned of Senate disruption if the federal government does not act on One Nation’s apprenticeship policy.
Mr Burston said a Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union campaign, that includesfull-page advertisements in the Newcastle Herald,flowed from One Nation’s support for the Turnbull Government’s n Building and Construction Commission legislation, but the timing appeared to be linked to polling showing strong support for the minor party in some areas.
The CFMEU alleges“One Nation Senator Brian Burston voted with Malcolm Turnbull to give us laws that will mean less apprenticeships on government jobs and even less jobs for our kids”, because of provisions in the new legislation allowing companies to employ foreign labour if n workers cannot be found, “includingthrough training”.
Mr Burston said the allegation was “quite insulting but I just laughed when I saw it”, and accused both major parties of greater damage to apprenticeships by gutting ’s traditional trade training colleges through privatisation and other policy changes.
A Federal Government document from 2016, Trends in Apprenticeships and Traineeships, found building trades had been less affectedby a dramatic drop in all forms of trainee arrangements since 2012, with the number of apprentice bricklayers, carpenters and joiners falling by 5 per cent, plumbers by 3 per cent and electricians by 10 per cent.
The only occupation to record a rise in apprenticeships was electronics and telecommunications trade workers, up by 27 per cent.
Mr Burston, a former NSW TAFE teacher for 10 years who started his working career as an apprentice boilermaker, said One Nation had been frustrated by the Turnbull Government’s failure to act on One Nation’sapprenticeship policy and wasconsidering tying support for the policy to support for the government’s Budget measures.
One Nation proposes federal subsidies of 75 per cent of an apprentice’s wage in the first year, 50 per cent in the second year and 25 per cent in the third, paid to employers.
“We would start with 500 places and let it go from there. We’re starting to put a bit of pressure on the government over it. They’ve been saying ‘Yes, yes, yes, we’re looking at it’ for a long time, but Pauline’s starting to get frustrated with them,” Mr Burston said.
”We may need to use our position in the Senate to apply pressure in some way, relating to Budget measures.”
Mr Burston revealed he was the architect of One Nation’s preference deal swap with the Liberal Partyin the Western n election which was criticised as contributing to the party’s significant drop in support during the campaign.
Mr Burston defended the deal as “the right thing” and said “in my view it was a success”.
A blanket preference deal would not be done again, although the Queensland Liberals continue to support seat by seat deals with One Nation.
Mr Burston backed beleaguered One Nation colleague Malcolm Roberts who is facing a strong challenge to his eligibility to stand for Federal Parliament over n citizenship.
“I’m not worried at this stage,” Mr Burston said.
He would not support same sex marriage if moves within the Federal Coalition lead to a conscience vote on the issue.
“I’d vote against same sex marriage. No doubt. I believe there should be a plebiscite but if it comes to a vote I think marriage is between a man and a woman,” he said.
“I think the government should just get on with it. Same sex marriage is just a social issue. It’s a distraction, a major distraction.”
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