Time To Call The Bluff Of Shrinking, Irrelevant Unions

REVELATIONS union membership has fallen to its lowest level ever — 11% in the private sector, and 15% of the total workforce — explodes the myth of union relevance; whatever past good unions rightly claim, the country — except for teachers, public servants and militant construction groups — has mostly moved on. Sound governance and labour market reform must not be derailed by a cabal spurned by almost nine in ten working Australians.

You have to wonder at what point the penny will drop for the ALP; the revelation earlier this week that union membership now covers less than two in ten working Australians is a potent and undeniable signal that the Trades Hall junta that funds the Labor Party and rules it with a dictatorial fist is no longer particularly relevant in mainstream Australia.

So far has union membership dropped that the unions have all but reached the status of a fringe group, or just a noisier minority than most of the rent seekers and beggars who trawl the corridors of power in Canberra seeking status, patronage and influence.

With just one in ten private sector workers electing to join a union overall — and marginally more than that when public sector employees are factored in — Australians have voted with their feet and their wallets in a stunning rebuff of organised labour, and one which renders void the loud and histrionic claims to continuing relevance in modern Australia.

It is figures like these that underline the utter bastardry of militant unions like the CFMEU in holding the entire construction sector to ransom: one of the key drivers of jobs growth and economic activity, the building and construction industry is effectively a petty fiefdom of lawless CFMEU thugs, and the end results of their handiwork are reflected everywhere in the form of delays, cost blowouts, higher prices, and lost productivity.

And it is figures like these that shine a light on the reasons the ALP has become so unrepresentative of — and irrelevant to — contemporary Australia; the outdated, stagnant industrial agenda of what passes for the union movement in this country nowadays does not reflect, increasingly, the lives of those who live in it.

Yet Labor remains 50% controlled by the union movement, and in practical terms this effectively means that provided unions vote as a bloc they can control any outcome within the ALP edifice; once again, the results of this can be seen everywhere, with union stooges comprising the vast majority of Labor caucuses in the states and federally, as well as populating the ranks of the ALP’s advisor pool at both levels of government.

It makes for a shallow gene pool indeed when it comes to policy vigour or (God forbid!) any originality of thought, for the one thing that can be said of all these union lemmings is that they all sing the same song from the same song sheet: there hasn’t been a new idea from any of them in the 32 years since Bob Hawke devised the Accord.

Solidarity Forever, indeed…

It is difficult to ascertain precisely what purpose — aside from brawling against conservative governments and trying to prevent them being elected, and creating industrial and social mayhem when they don’t get what they want from those conservative governments, that is — unions in Australia even serve these days.

Most of their staunchest defenders talk about “safety” in industrialised workplaces; and even on that count the claim is dubious, for even the most heavily unionised workforce contains ample underlings with ready tales of “safety breaches” being declared by shop stewards with the explicit purpose of forcing an employer to agree to something that’s usually completely unrelated to the supposed safety issue at hand.

But to the extent “safety” is a pretext for the existence of unions, a whole private industry, based on workplace expertise and tailored and specialised to fit specific industries (and probably even drawn in part at least from existing union ranks) is just waiting for whatever group of people is entrepreneurial enough to create it: making the presence of unions in their current form redundant on this particular count at a stroke.

Collective wage negotiations? The most spectacular industrial failure in Australian history can be laid at the feet of unions, with the wholesale closure of car manufacturing in this country to be complete in the next few years; unions — striking “enterprise” agreements with car manufacturers — priced themselves and their workers out of the market to the point the local industry was uncompetitive internationally.

It matters not whether car industries in other countries are subsidised by their governments or not: Australia’s was still the most unproductive of the lot, and especially when compared against the likes of Germany and the USA; these “enterprise” agreements were predicated solely on soaking up the quantum of government subsidies in pay increases, necessitating further subsidies that were eaten up in further pay rises, and the cycle — which continued — reaped its inevitable consequence.

Those agreements cannot be judged on the rates of “base pay” they delivered to members, as unions are fond of protesting, for those “base” rates, when augmented with loadings, allowances, penalties and other goodies, saw semi-skilled mechanical workers walking away with six-figure annual incomes, and reports of redundancies at General Motors at least running into the hundreds of thousands of dollars per worker. Such arrangements benefit the few fortunate enough to be on the scene at the time, but they do nothing for sustainable jobs, nothing for sustainable industries, nothing for job growth, and pay scant attention to anything other than short-term expediency.

But even now, unions — purporting to strike collective, industry-wide pay and condition deals — have shown themselves adept at striking different deals with the managements of different companies in the same industry, and one example of it is the different arrangements that apply to the workforces of Qantas and Virgin: the same type of workers performing the same tasks, yet the Virgin workforce costs an awful lot less than its counterpart at Qantas. And why? Because the unions agreed.

There is no reason why the same principle cannot be applied at individual hospitals, or schools, or at the very least, to individual health and education regions, with staff delegates nominated by their peers to conduct enterprise negotiations with their managements.

Such examples shine a spotlight toward an alternative form of workplace bargaining that could offer unionists a way forward as part of a modern, contemporary workplace model. But the unions won’t have a bar of it, for these are the most conservative organisations in the country. They haven’t changed in decades. And not only do they not want to change, they stubbornly refuse to do so.

And it isn’t hard to see why.

The revelations being aired at the Royal Commission into the union movement have already seen numerous union identities referred to law enforcement agencies for prosecution and, on the law of averages, the Commission’s final report can be expected to add to that number exponentially: what is clear, before the report is even delivered, is that the organisational structure that sustains Australia’s unions is rotten to the core, and the decent men and women who work in the labour movement deserve far better than what their “leaders” are being shown to have done.

But those “leaders” are dependent not only on their citadels of power, but on having them as large and as bloated as possible: numbers, in the old solidarity spiel, are strength; and in their particular case they provide delegates at Labor conferences, clout to use against employers, numbers to wheel out across Australia’s industries and cities to bring them to a screeching halt if whatever the day’s demands are not acceded to, and muscle to intimidate, harass and/or bully opponents and holdouts into submission — or worse.

Now — presumably because a conservative government is responsible for it — we have unions campaigning heavily in the media against a free trade agreement with China that will create thousands of jobs (not least, for their own members), grow the economy, and which offers one way to attempt to ensure the unprecedented growth and prosperity Australia has enjoyed over the past 20-25 years continues.

Why? The only conclusion to draw is to “stick it” to the Turnbull government. Certainly, the campaign against the China free trade agreement being waged by the unions is baseless, and seemingly designed merely to frighten people.

In turn, this isn’t a useful or productive function of Australian unions either.

It does not matter — as a poll by Essential Media found this week — that 62% of Australians regard unions as “important;” the fact is that less than a quarter of that number put their money where their mouth is.

It’s like the 70% of people polls used to find would vote for Malcolm Turnbull if he became Prime Minister and, with no disrespect to Malcolm, I’m certain even he won’t be heartbroken when the Liberal Party’s vote (even after preferences) isn’t 70% at the next election or anything remotely approaching it.

Anyone can say they support something in theory. Words are just that. But action is what really talks, and when it comes to union membership in Australia there is less, and less, and less of it.

In today’s world, it doesn’t matter what laws you have, or whether there are unions or not, or what statutory safeguards are legislated to protect employees: if people are determined to act as shysters and swindlers and to rip people off, they are going to do it anyway. We are only talking about a small minority of people, but as the Left doesn’t comprehend, you can’t legislate away (or suppress with brute tactics) the base human nature of the recalcitrant.

But for the most part, people today realise there is a better way to deal between workers and employers than having the unions stick their (unwanted) noses into the process; the fact just 15% of the workforce even belongs to it is the proof.

It certainly isn’t a demonstration of the need for unions, or an endorsement of them.

And this brings us squarely to the present debate over penalty rates.

To his credit, Malcolm Turnbull has shown a disinclination to shun difficult, necessary reforms because they’re simply too hard as the Abbott government did; there is an emergent discussion on tax and welfare reform beginning to germinate as well, and taken in collective with the conversation about penalty rates it is to be hoped the reform process that stalled when the Howard government was defeated can be resumed.

Unions are readying to fight — as I continually point out — their fourth consecutive federal election campaign over WorkChoices; not only are they a decade behind the times on that front, but the scare tactics have been wheeled out so many times people are sick of hearing them and simply don’t believe them any more.

But WorkChoices — whether you agreed with it or disagreed with it — was introduced without being raised during an election campaign, was introduced without a mandate, and whilst I maintain it was a far more reasonable and moderate package than the nightmare scenarios repeatedly conjured up by Labor and the unions.

And WorkChoices was the charge of one Kevin Andrews to sell as the responsible Howard government minister: something he singularly failed to do, and by the time he was replaced with someone more adept at making the case for the reforms (ironically, in retrospect, by Joe Hockey), the Howard government was dead in the water. It had paid the price for its electoral heist with its political life. And it was probably the single greatest reason the ALP was able to defeat it.

But properly calibrated reform proposals — on tax, on  welfare, on penalty rates, on industrial relations more broadly, and on anything else for that matter — that are adequately explained and competently sold to the electorate are not impossible to realise, nor the right kind of change impossible to achieve.

Characteristically, the union movement will oppose all of this to a man.

But with their membership being revealed at little better than one in eight Australian workers for all the world to see, it’s patently clear that whilst the unions can make a lot of voice and wreak havoc with people’s lives, they act and speak for a small proportion of the Australian workforce only.

I think it’s time to call their bluff: intimidation and threats and bloody-minded bastardy might make useful weapons of fear, and the wholesale disruption (and often destruction) the unions like to unleash with their rent-a-crowd protests drawn from people who should be at work but are more interested in participating in legally protected trouble than in any defence of “principle” can hardly be entirely ignored.

But the Turnbull government, as it moves to salvage the opportunity to prosecute reforms the Liberal Party was elected to tackle, shouldn’t be deterred by it either. We all know the tactics. None of us finds them pleasant. But a tiny band of noisemakers should not and must not be allowed to continue to dictate outcomes to the almost nine in ten workers forced to involuntarily accept the results.

That a debate is taking place on penalty rates concurrently with the rising tide of Liberal support in opinion polls carries a salutary message to those who might be tempted to buckle before union thuggery and bluster.

And for the ALP, there has never been a better time to jettison its formal links to its union buddies, and to sever the bonds that hand control of that party to Trades Hall when it represents so few people in Australia at all.

It would make a pleasant coincidence of timing for such a change to concur with the inevitable departure of its “leader,” Bill Shorten, sooner rather than later.

Naturally, no-one should hold their breath.

 

No, “Picking A Fight” Will Not Save Shorten, Help Labor

IN THE AFTERMATH of our article on Tuesday, opposition “leader” Bill Shorten is being urged by ALP strategists to “pick a fight” with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to save his “leadership” and give Labor a chance to win the looming federal election; it is a last-gasp strategy born of terminal desperation. Labor’s chosen fight starters are tired and predictable, and will cut no ice with a fed-up electorate virtually begging for Shorten to quit his post.

Following the article published in this column on Tuesday, I should just note that the response, online and offline, has been considerable; opinion among readers has been divided — presumably along lines of party support — with one contingent professing satisfaction at Labor “leader” Bill Shorten’s prospective demise, and the other claiming the reports are baseless.

Rather disturbingly, a sizeable proportion of the latter camp has truculently insisted on the naming and publication of the identities of the sources used for the piece, and whilst I intend to dismiss those entreaties with the contempt they deserve — confidential sources are and will remain precisely that, thank you very much — the lynch mob mentality betrayed by this clamouring for insiders with information to be publicly named (and, presumably, abused and pilloried) is a symptom of the sickness that emanates from the political Left in this country today, and its determination to crucify anything or anyone who opposes with it or contrives to derail its “historic” mission of illiberalism, thought dictation, and the imposition of its positions on a cynical and wary electorate.

Even so, just about the best defence of Shorten that has come from these quarters is that opinion polls are no guide to political behaviour — which in the current environment is a ridiculous view to take — and that if Shorten remains where he is beyond 30 November I (and the sources of information used) will have been shown to be wrong.

Yet politics is a febrile business; we are talking about events that are set to occur over the next four to five weeks. If Shorten goes in early December, will the want of a few days make us look silly? Hardly. And if he somehow elects to stubbornly cling to his post a little longer — with enough time between now and then to decide to do so — it will simply mean that when the time to fall on his sword early next year belatedly arrives, Shorten will be even more damaged in public estimation than he is now.

There is nothing so abjectly pathetic as a dud political “leader” continuing, zombie-like, to stumble in circles, comatose, well past the end point of their political usefulness: Shorten has already passed that marker (if he was ever of political use to the ALP at all), and whilst I am in no way favourably disposed toward the ALP, the move to remove from around its neck the electoral millstone that Shorten constitutes is one time when someone inside that party at least is 100% right for once.

Having said all of that, a typically repugnant “last stand” appears to be under way around Shorten, with reports yesterday that Labor strategists are urging him to “pick a fight” with Malcolm Turnbull to save his leadership and to give the ALP “a chance” to win the coming election.

The suggestion smacks of some of the very worst judgements that emanated from the bunker of former Prime Minister Tony Abbott on the watch of his infamous chief of staff, Peta Credlin. The declaration that last year had been “a year of achievement,” for example, springs to mind in that regard.

(Even those reports, it should be noted, suggest Shorten is unlikely to face a challenge: exactly as we reported here on Tuesday. But they do not rule out a move to a new Labor leader by other means).

It is difficult to see what “fight” Shorten could pick that might prolong his miserable tenure as Labor “leader,” but it is impossible to see how Labor could win an election on his watch: not now, not next year, and not ever.

His attempt to “pick a fight” over Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s not-inconsiderable wealth, dismissed by most as a brazen class-based assault guided by envy and resentment of success, hardly went well.

So what issue is the magic bullet that will infuse life into Shorten’s undead, brain-dead “leadership?”

Industrial relations? Labor is gearing up to fight its fourth consecutive election campaign over WorkChoices. The Coalition is powering ahead in the polls with a full-blown debate over penalty rate reform — the kiss of political death, according to the ALP — in full swing. No, WorkChoices was the gift that gave to Labor just once, in 2007. The world has moved on.

Education? The issue resonates less than Labor thinks. But at some point, the emphasis of any debate over Education is going to be moved decisively away from the raw dollar funding pledges Labor is so fond of to one over value for money. If and when that happens, Labor — which, mindful of the clout of powerful teacher unions, refuses to allow discussion of falling literacy and numeracy rates to be tied to teachers’ ability and training — won’t have so much as a fig leaf for cover.

Health? Labor wants to abolish the private health insurance rebate. Good luck justifying that, or the consequences for public healthcare that would flow from it.

A continued attack on Turnbull’s wealth? The article I’ve linked today suggests this will resonate in outer suburbs and regional areas, making Turnbull “appear less connected” in those places. I would suggest it would instead be interpreted as an insinuation that voters in those areas are too stupid to identify with an aspirational and entrepreneurial Prime Minister. Such a campaign would backfire as badly as Labor’s first ill-advised attack on Turnbull’s wealth did last week.

Shorten took aim yesterday at Tony Abbott’s speech on Tuesday night (AEDT) to British conservatives on asylum seekers, stating that Europe “did not need” Tony Abbott. But Abbott is no longer Prime Minister, and his views are now only that: his views. It is difficult to see how Shorten’s political resurgence might derive from such an attack.

The Labor sources quoted in the piece I’ve linked insist Shorten must be more confrontational: bipartisanship doesn’t work for us, they say. Tony Abbott wanted a fight over everything whereas Malcolm Turnbull wants to agree on everything, they say. But Shorten has spent two years opposing everything and being wantonly bloody-minded on Coalition legislation as it is. How confrontational do ALP hardheads think Shorten should be?

And then there is, of course, the small matter of the Royal Commission into the unions, which seems certain to tip a bucket of excrement all over the ALP; not only will the political fallout damage Labor by association — it is, after all, chock-full of union hacks, and largely bankrolled out of Trades Hall — but Shorten in particular stands to be badly damaged irrespective of whether he faces further action on account of his past status at the head of a union himself.

Just as Tony Abbott had Peta Credlin, her husband (and Liberal federal director) Brian Loughnane, a contingent of Liberal MPs and considerable organisational support behind him even as he was being removed from office so, it follows, will Shorten enjoy a similar quotient of support within the ALP even as the clock ticks down on his doomed “leadership” of that party.

But the strategy — if you could call it that — of picking fights with everyone and everything in sight isn’t the path to salvation.

Ironically, were Shorten to deploy that strategy in his own back yard — taking aim at Labor’s unhealthy reliance on the unions, confronting the vested interests that dictate to Labor in return for donation money, and exploring new positions in areas regarded as sacred cows like Education and Industrial Relations — he might in fact find a credible point of differentiation for the ALP that could win broad public support.

But he won’t. He can’t. The forces in the ALP that Shorten is beholden to — the unions — would never permit it. As a unionist himself, he would never sanction it.

In the end, the “pick a fight” call is no more than a desperate last stand from the dwindling support base of a terminally compromised “leader:” and irrespective of whether Shorten goes next month, in early December, or scratches out the silly season before he accepts the inevitable and quits, it won’t help him at all.

And given nothing along these lines has worked for Labor at all in the past two years — a judgement we can make now its vilified hate figure Tony Abbott has himself departed the political centre stage, robbing the ALP of perhaps its sole political positive — there is no reason to believe it will work now either.

Bill Shorten To Resign As Labor Leader

LABOR “LEADER” Bill Shorten is set to resign his post, and possibly from Parliament, next month; with the ALP now recording poll numbers commensurate with his abysmal performance and set to be hit by fallout from the Royal Commission into the unions, Shorten’s departure will terminate a shameful era for Labor. The move raises questions around timing, and of who will replace him to face a snap double dissolution in December or early 2016.

We generally do not break news in this column — mainly because I simply don’t have the resources at present to operate as a journalist on a fulltime basis — but this morning is an exception, and whilst we will relay the news in the conversational discussion style readers are familiar with, the details are very much an early break on a developing story.

Usually reliable sources report that the ALP is preparing for the imminent resignation of its “leader,” Bill Shorten, during one of the two parliamentary sessions scheduled for November.

The development comes in the wake of the leadership change at the Liberal Party, with new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull now outscoring Shorten in some polls as “preferred Prime Minister” by a four-to-one margin, and ahead of the likely release of the final report by the Royal Commission into union corruption and misconduct in either November or December.

It is unclear at this stage whether Shorten intends to recontest his seat of Maribyrnong, in Melbourne’s inner north-west, at the looming federal election, although this column understands there is a distinct possibility he will resign from Parliament altogether.

News of Shorten’s intention to vacate the Labor leadership comes as the ALP’s opinion poll numbers have collapsed on trend beyond the woeful 33.4% primary vote it scored at the 2013 election under Kevin Rudd, and we understand just one further round of shocking polling could be decisive in determining Shorten’s position.

It is understood that rather than face a leadership challenge in the ALP caucus, Shorten will stand aside voluntarily.

The prospect of Shorten’s imminent departure as Labor “leader” comes as little surprise; the motivation for it, however, and the identity of his replacement remain matters for conjecture at present.

Already adversely named in testimony before the Royal Commission, it is possible Shorten — irrespective of whether charges are recommended against him — may elect to vacate the Labor leadership to provide a fresh start for a new leader, freed of the lingering malodorous effects of the dirty union linen that has been aired.

It is not known whether Shorten has advance knowledge of any possible action to be recommended against him and/or his associates from his past career as a union official, or whether such a consideration has motivated his mooted resignation, and this column makes no suggestion or implication to that effect.

Either way, it is understood that a replacement Labor leader will be chosen with a single candidate nominating for the post, avoiding the need for a messy, protracted and potentially divisive campaign lasting weeks or months, and avoiding the risk of a snap election being called whilst the ALP is — quite literally — leaderless.

It is unclear at this point who the new Labor leader is to be: however, factional considerations dictate that the Left cannot simultaneously hold both the leadership and the deputy leadership (ruling out a ticket comprising Anthony Albanese and Tanya Plibersek); Chris Bowen is known to want to wait longer before contesting a leadership ballot, meaning he is likely to run as deputy to either Albanese or to Plibersek.

This column understands that as soon as Shorten announces his resignation, preparations to engineer a double dissolution election that are currently afoot in Liberal Party circles will be activated; the timing of the election will to a large degree depend on the timing of Shorten’s departure as Labor “leader.”

The last practicable date on which to hold an election this year is Saturday 19 December, and for constitutional reasons, such an election would need to be called on or before Tuesday 17 November.

Federal Parliament is due to sit twice in November: from the 9th to the 12th, and again from the 23rd until 3 December: clearly, unless Shorten’s resignation occurs before or during the first of those sitting weeks, any election will be delayed until the new year.

Should that occur, it is understood a polling date in late February or early March is under active consideration.

This timeframe — and the need to be ready, should Shorten pull the pin sooner rather than later — places an obligation on the government to reintroduce whichever of its stalled bills is necessary to the Senate, with great urgency, to provide desired double dissolution triggers that can then be passed at a joint sitting: the Registered Organisations Bill, which if passed will enforce the same regulations and standards of governance upon the union movement as the business community is already subjected to, being chief among them.

But on the other hand, an election at the end of this year or early next carries the prospect of substantial adverse findings against union and ALP figures providing a backdrop to the campaign, against which the ALP will struggle to present a palatable or credible offering to voters.

By way of commentary, I offer that Shorten has been a poor “leader:” this column has consistently refused to acknowledge him without qualification as the leader of his party, when even Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd were thus acknowledged.

Bill Shorten — lampooned in this column as “Billy Bullshit,” with good reason — isn’t a leader’s bootlace.

Shorten’s tenure as Labor “leader” represents a shameful period in ALP history, driven as it has been by blatant attempts to stoke class warfare and envy among Australians, punctuated by mindlessly obstructionist Senate tactics in cohort with the Communist Party Greens and a willing crossbench composed mostly of supposed conservative independents and minor parties, and publicly articulated in fundamentally dishonest terms that have lowered the bar for standards of political decency in this country and unforgivably assumed of voters the lack of intelligence or perception to see through the contemptible tactics on show.

A self-acknowledged liar who has admitted to deceptive and untrustworthy conduct among his colleagues is unfit to hold the leadership of his party, let alone the great office of Prime Minister, and Shorten — in the absence of Tony Abbott, whom Labor personally demonised and defamed for years — is regarded in reputable opinion polling by voters with the contempt he deserves now he has been judged solely on his own merits in the absence of the frenzy his party whipped up around Abbott.

If Labor is smart, it will replace Shorten with Plibersek and give her two attempts to win for the ALP; if it is predictable, it will instead anoint Albanese. Both offer tantalising contests against Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull: Albanese representing the product of a not-dissimilar background that evolved in a very different direction, and Plibersek (her gender notwithstanding) being a warrior of the Left on many of the issues Turnbull is noted for championing from the Right.

But either way, the departure of Shorten from senior political life will be no loss whatsoever to this country, and in the big scheme of things won’t matter a tin of beans.

Shorten isn’t even yesterday’s man, unless your preference yesterday was for a lying, scheming, manipulative union thug with a penchant for burying axes between the shoulder blades of those supposedly closest to him.

The prospect of Shorten as Prime Minister should horrify even those most apathetic about politics; the emphasis of the ALP in stoking envy, hatred of success and war between classes on his watch has placed a great stain on that party, and Shorten’s tenure at its helm will come to be viewed by Labor people as a matter of deep embarrassment that dishonoured it.

Nobody will miss Shorten when he is gone. This column is waiting, eagerly, for the anointed day to arrive.

Playing “Games:” Shorten Stance On Unions May Kill ALP

BILL SHORTEN claims to have “zero tolerance for criminality” but where Australia’s rotten, lawless unions are concerned, he refuses to sanction action to force them to account; it’s typical “Billy Bullshit” doublespeak: designed to appease all comers but in fact devoid of credibility and amounting to nothing. If he persists — defending cronies who should be prosecuted — the consequences for the party he “leads” could be cataclysmic.

Bill Shorten appears determined to embody the very worst stereotypes when it comes to questions of political “leadership:” commit to nothing, be all things to all people, speak with a forked tongue, and rattle on with a lot of rhetoric and jargon that adds up to precisely zero.

And like any truly contemptible politician — who, to paraphrase a certain movie from the 1990s, kisses babies whilst stealing their lollipops — the impression of Shorten being beholden to “special” interests than run completely counter to the national good is impossible to shake.

So it is with the union movement (of which, of course, Shorten is a creature) and the question of what to do with it in the wake of a Royal Commission that has exposed allegations of widespread, rampant and endemic misconduct.

I’ve read an article in this morning’s edition of The Australian, which quotes Shorten as saying the ALP has “zero tolerance for credibility” whilst at the same time stating that he’s not going to “play some dog whistle game” where moves to rein in union misconduct are concerned; clearly, the two statements are utterly incompatible, and the only conclusion that can be drawn from them is that Shorten is prepared to talk the talk when it comes to institutionalised wrongdoing, but action is dependent on that wrongdoing taking place somewhere other than the union movement.

As we often say in this column in consideration of the regrettable Shorten, three into two does not go.

Even in the face of a poll surge that has seen the Coalition rocket ahead of Labor under new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, readers know I still suspect this new support for the government is incredibly soft; even so, there are certain constituencies to whom Shorten will remain flatly and irredeemably committed irrespective of his public utterances and/or how little they add up to. The Communist Party Greens are one such group. Another, rather self-evidently, is the union movement, in all its rotten, lawless glory.

At hand today is the issue — which Turnbull, to his credit, seems determined to force — is the restoration of the Australian Building and Construction Commission and the re-tabling in the Senate of the Registered Organisations Bill, designed to impose transparency on union officials; and far from these measures constituting an existential attack on the union movement or an ideologically driven assault on organised labour or any of the other histrionic constructs placed on them by the self-interested, the restoration of the ABCC and the passage of the Registered Organisations laws are simple, common-sense responses to the undeniable tapestry of illicit misconduct and alleged criminal behaviour that the Royal Commission into the union movement appears to have uncovered.

Now, Turnbull is threatening Labor — and Shorten — with an election on industrial relations, with the obvious likely outcomes from the Royal Commission used as a pretext to have the measures in question passed at a Joint Sitting following a double dissolution election over the matter, and the question isn’t whether or not Turnbull is playing a “dog whistle game” or not, but rather how long Shorten, masquerading as a sober and decent political leader, can or will continue to piss into the wind against the apparently overwhelming body of evidence being accrued against the unions to which it is beholden.

Interjections from the likes of Queensland Senator Glenn Lazarus (also quoted in The Australian today) can and should be freely dismissed; Lazarus’ suggestion that restoring the ABCC was akin to “taking a sledgehammer” to unions because only a small group of people were doing the wrong thing is a little like saying the Criminal Code should be repealed because only a small proportion of the population breaks the law anyway.

Such formulations are, patently, absurd: yet it is precisely this kind of reasoning on which Shorten rests his case for doing absolutely nothing about the violent, lawless, thuggish unions who flout the law with contempt, and who — in no small part thanks to ALP handiwork and obstruction over the past decade — remain just about the only major group in Australia to whom laws around governance, disclosure and appropriate standards of conduct do not apply.

As The Australian notes, even elements within the CFMEU — that bastion of union militancy and seeming incorrigibility where questions of legality are concerned — recognise the need for some kind of overhaul, with national secretary Dave Noonan suggesting there were “lessons to be learned” by his union from the Royal Commission, saying there was a need for “transparency” and “openness,” and whilst maintaining the union line criticising the Commission claimed the CFMEU was engaged in a “root-to-branch review (sic)” of governance procedures.

To differing degrees there is evidence other unions, whilst maintaining the official line that the Royal Commission is a witch hunt, are nonetheless cleaning up their act in response to the matters uncovered before it: Shorten’s own union, moving to terminate a rotten EBA with cleaning company Cleanevent struck on Shorten’s watch as its national secretary, is but one example of this.

And it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to deduce that if push comes to shove — and Dyson Heydon’s inquiry results in the expected plethora of prosecutions against those in the union movement found to have engaged in criminal misconduct — the decent men and women in union ranks will co-operate not with the tainted scum in their midst that has given the wider union movement such a bad reputation for so long, but with law enforcement agencies determined to root those miscreants out and to bring them to account.

Shorten’s response to these considerations can be seen here.

His problem, paradoxically, is that for now at least, a large minority of voters — as regularly evidenced in reputable opinion polling — are sympathetic to the Labor charge that the Royal Commission is a witch-hunt, a stunt, and a cynical, ideologically driven political exercise contrived to smash the conservatives’ greatest political opponents.

For now, the restored Coalition vote being identified in polls may very well be soft.

But electoral behaviour and voter sentiment is not a phenomenon to be trifled with; seismic changes are prone to appear seemingly from nowhere, even in the face of apparently certain election outcomes. The political efficacy of a birthday cake, 10 days out from the 1993 election, would certainly be vouched for by former Liberal leader John Hewson.

Were the Commission to conclude with a slew of recommendations that past and present union leaders face prosecution, as appears inevitable — and the procession of these thugs through the Courts be played out in full view of the public — the inclination to public sympathy toward the union movement is likely to evaporate overnight, and be replaced by a universal sense of disgust.

In that event, Shorten’s “work” on batting away the impact of the Royal Commission on the ALP will have been for nought, and his party, tarred with the same brush in the eye of the public as the rotten unions being hauled before the Courts and irredeemably tarnished by the association with lawlessness and corruption, is likely to pay a heavy price.

And there is, of course, the small matter of the possibility that Shorten himself may face repercussions from his own time in charge of the AWU, although just like all the other individuals being exposed by the judicial inquiry at hand, we can’t and won’t prejudge that either.

But the bottom line is undeniable: there is a “game” being played all right; it’s not the Turnbull government playing it, just like it wasn’t the Abbott government before it.

This is a very dangerous game indeed, and the only player who matters is Bill Shorten: and unless his words and deeds where the union movement are concerned start to reflect reality then irrespective of what happens to Shorten personally, his party will go down with the lawless filth set to be prosecuted in the not-too-distant future.

For Labor, the electoral consequences are likely to be cataclysmic. A change of leader, and quickly, would be an astute exercise indeed in damage mitigation.

Greens Tell Shorten: Keep The Bed Warm For Us

ANY DOUBT an ALP government would be a simple repeat of the Gillard disaster — dictated to and enslaved by the Communist Party Greens — has been dispelled; a feature on leader Richard di Natale in Fairfax papers finds the fringe party lining up for ministerial office in return for securing confidence and supply. The development should alarm those planning a “soft protest” vote in the belief the Greens are “harmless.” They are anything but.

There are two past articles from my archives that I want to share with readers at the outset: one, dated 19 February 2013, when then-Greens leader — the sanctimonious, pious Christine Milne — made a great show of “terminating” her party’s formal Coalition with the government of former Prime Minister Julia Gillard; and two, something I published not nine months later, as then-new ALP “leader” Bill Shorten made a refusal to support the abolition of the hated carbon tax (for which the newly elected Abbott government had an explicit electoral mandate) one of his first official postures, and as everyone knows, Shorten has since committed Labor to not one carbon tax if restored to office, but two.

The reason for this little trip down memory lane can be found in an interview between one of the better Fairfax journalists, James Massola, and current Greens leader Richard di Natale, which was published online late last night and appears in Fairfax publications across the country today.

In it, di Natale states that he would “relish” the opportunity to serve as Health minister in a Labor government — I’m sure he would — and suggests colleague Larissa Waters would make a good Environment minister.

Frankly, the only place the Greens belong is in the back of a Police van for blocking legal access to property after chaining themselves to trees, gates and so forth.

I say that in jest, but the idea of this lunatic, ultra-socialist party playing an even greater role in government than they did in the disastrous “power sharing” agreement they were indulged with by Julia Gillard should strike fear and terror into anyone concerned to see sound government delivering outcomes that optimise economic conditions, job safety, national security, and an immigration regime that doesn’t feature thousands of asylum seeker deaths, quite literally, as a cost of doing business.

Despite “a spokesman” for Bill Shorten being quoted in Massola’s piece as saying that if di Natale wanted to serve in a Labor government he should join the ALP, on one level, the Greens leader’s remarks are probably a reasonably shrewd reflection of electoral reality: already boasting just 25 of 76 Senate berths and with just 14 of those facing re-election (at a standard half-Senate poll), it is impossible for the ALP to control the Senate outright; even at a double dissolution election at which the Greens would stand a better chance of defending their present 10 Senate seats, everything would need to go the way of the Left for Labor to get close to Senate control even with the Greens.

In the lower house, Labor needs to win 20 seats from the Coalition to score a simple majority: and stripped of its key asset — Tony Abbott and the dysfunctional political apparatus overseen by Peta Credlin and husband Brian Loughnane — even that seems a difficult ask at present, whereas one (Melbourne) and possibly up to another four seats could quite feasibly be jagged by the Greens.

The only way to avoid a disastrous ALP-Greens government is, of course, a resounding win by the Coalition — irrespective of the misgivings some on the Liberal Right or in the National Party might think of new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

di Natale has made it clear he would not countenance a “formal, permanent alliance” of the kind that exists between the Liberals and Nationals. Yet semantic presentations and the mechanics by which they are executed count for precisely nothing when weighed against the outcomes they are charged with delivering.

And where outcomes are concerned, the wish list of the Greens and the “policies” already announced by Labor under Shorten spell trouble.

Despite the hard realities of the politics of climate change and irrespective of whether you believe the alarmist warmist lobby — which disregards any fact-based evidence it disagrees with, or contradicts it, in the name of “science” — or whether you sit as a so-called “denier,” Labor is already committed to the restoration of not just one carbon tax but two, in a new regime purported to cut Australia’s emissions by 50%.

Shorten has been brutally candid that the electricity industry will be a target for a smashing hit: anyone believing any fork-tongued assurances that domestic electricity bills, already rocketing past their post-carbon tax peaks off the back of increased utilisation of inefficient, expensive, commercially unviable renewables, is delusional.

Electricity will become a luxury purchase under a restored Labor-Greens government.

The Shorten policy dovetails nicely with a raft of Greens’ demands, such as the retention of several climate change agencies currently slated for execution and a ramping up of government subsidies for the same renewables already pricing essential services beyond the reach of thousands of households.

And given the Greens’ implacable opposition to subsidised private health cover — which draws billions of dollars of extra health funding out of consumers’ pockets every year — the Shorten policy of abolishing the private health insurance rebate (which is currently obscured, deliberately, from view by Labor) is one that is almost certain to be enacted if Labor and the Greens control Parliament after the coming election.

That policy, as we have repeatedly observed, will overrun the public health system as perhaps millions dump private health insurance — impacting it through inability to cope with demand to the point of collapse.

But more broadly, the Greens’ “vision” remains a disturbing constant: and despite much of it having been rejected in the past, the same tired list of demands is set to be trundled back out in the event of an ALP election win — and we know, from Labor’s own past performance, that the ALP will simply bend over and submit to most of it, if not all.

More tax, no spending cuts, ramped-up Education and Health spending with no accountability or emphasis on efficiency, onshore asylum seeker processing featuring community release, more tax, $10 billion pilfered from the superannuation accounts of Australians, a hit at property owners through the partial abolition of negative gearing, a ramping up of capital gains tax, another hit at the mining sector, lashing out at  agricultural producers by ending the diesel excise rebate, more tax…all in the name of freeing up billions for the hard socialist spending programs beloved of the delusional Left, whilst causing irretrievable economic damage in the process and at the cost of perhaps hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Asylum seekers arriving by boat will begin drowning again as the green light is sent to those who profit from their misfortune.

Billions will be raked in despite absolutely no appreciable impact on global warming, whilst climate change is in any case an infinitely occurring natural phenomenon that is hardly going to sit up and take note of the Greens’ economic sabotage in the name of stopping it.

And when you remember the Greens are committed to the virtual disarmament of this country and a wholesale sellout of traditional friends like the US and Britain in favour of a naive, blinkered, and near-total security focus essentially predicated on trusting the Chinese, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to conclude Australia will become far less secure if the Greens ever again get anywhere near the levers of power that run it.

Sober rhetoric and conservative business attire are no substitute for common sense and sanity — commodities always in short supply at the Greens.

And when all of this is considered through the prism of actual communists in their ranks, including one national traitor and former Soviet operative — the repugnant NSW Senator Lee Rhiannon — and callous, unreasoning and unreasonable specimens such as infamous SA Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, the only logical conclusion to draw is that the Greens are literally mad, bad, and dangerous.

Yet they remain ready to jump back into bed with the ALP at the earliest opportunity, and nobody should be hoodwinked by the wink-and-nod messages being sent out by di Natale that protest innocence whilst, at root, seeking a resumption and consummation of the power-craved alliance Labor and the Greens indulged themselves with under Gillard.

Make no mistake: di Natale has used a powder puff piece in the Fairfax press to signal to the ALP that the bed should be kept warm.

Anyone who knows anything about Labor behaviour knows that should the prospect of power beckon, it will jump straight in with the Greens — and the jilted, spurned “other party” will be the millions who voted for Labor in the name of what they thought would be a better future.

Be afraid. The next misadventure in the politics of the hard Left, and its disastrous consequences, could be no further away than your next trip to the polling booth.

Why Duplicitous Unions Should Be Ignored on FTA

THE INADVERTENT UPSHOT of the Inquiry into the union movement is that regardless of whether prosecutions ensue, the penchant of unions to say and do literally anything fitting their objectives at any given time has been laid bare. On one hand, free trade agreements = bad, maligned as they are as job-destroying sellouts; on the other, slimy deals to line union coffers at the cost of workers’ conditions = good. Clearly, three into two does not go.

In a refrain that has become quite normal of late — bogged down as I am — my post will be rather succinct this morning; even so, my perusal of the day’s news portals suggests that whatever else you might accuse unions of, consistency should not be a feature of it.

Predictably enough, certain unions (and even more predictably, those unions are among the most militant) have hit out at Labor “leader” Bill Shorten for compromising with the Turnbull government to lock away an agreement on the free trade pact negotiated by Trade minister Andrew Robb with China; “condemning both sides of politics” for the agreement that has been struck, the ETU and the violent, lawless CFMEU have blasted the safeguards embedded into the agreement to protect Australian jobs and to prevent Australia being flooded with cheap Chinese labour.

I am not going to bog down in the detail of those safeguards this morning, nor buy into the campaign that continues to be waged against the China free trade agreement by unions: readers can check out the article I have linked from The Australian this morning if they wish to explore those themes further, and in any case the unions’ position can be simply condensed to a statement that the government’s free trade pact with China is bad, will destroy jobs and sells the country out — without any corroborating explanation as to how this is the case, or any evidence to prove its point.

As far as I’m concerned, the flat opposition of unions to this trade pact — which will provide greatly enhanced access to Chinese markets for Australian farmers — has more to do with the fact it’s been struck by a conservative government; had such an agreement been forged, say, by the Hawke-Keating government, it is inconceivable that Bill Kelty, Simon Crean, Martin Ferguson or other prominent unionists of the day would have mounted such a mindless, baseless scare campaign against the deal, which has more to do in any case with prying votes away from the Liberal Party than it does with any genuine concern around workers’ rights and job security.

The fact Bill Shorten — himself a stooge of the unions, and sometime chief among them — is being targeted is irrelevant.

Shorten, as testimony at the Royal Commission has repeatedly shown this year, has become a liability to the union movement: whether directly or indirectly, his connection to questionable financial dealings with business to line the coffers of the AWU at the cost of legislated worker entitlements has helped draw unwanted attention to the cosy edifice based on ripping off unionised corporations to enrich and entrench union power, and it should surprise few that Shorten has received scant public defence from current-day union thugs over the “revelations” that have been aired at Dyson Heydon’s inquiry.

Even so, where principle is concerned, great elasticity has always been a hallmark of the union position when it comes to their own financial health.

Sydney’s Daily Telegraph is running again today with further coverage of the so-called mushroom conspiracy that occurred on Shorten’s watch as head of the AWU, wherein payments were received by that union in return for allegedly turning a blind eye to workers at mushroom grower Chiquita being fired as employees and rehired as contractors on significantly reduced conditions, and the key point I would make is that were there no Royal Commission at all, nobody would care less about the alleged sellout of the mushroom pickers for the grotesque reason that nobody would know about it.

Significantly, there is no public outpouring of fury from any union, or from any individual currently occupying a senior leadership position within any union, over the growing litany of misdeeds being uncovered at the Heydon commission; not in relation to Chiquita, nor over the six-figure sums pocketed annually by the AWU from construction company John Holland, nor over the wholesale surrender of employee rights by the AWU at Cleanevent, or in regard to any of the other dodgy deals made by the AWU on Shorten’s watch that allegedly filled union coffers and inflated AWU membership whilst trading away the working conditions of its members — its actual members, that is.

And aside from the handful of union whistleblowers who have made the exposure of iffy union deals possible in the first place, there has been nary a syllable of protest or outrage from the unions over anything that has been revealed before Heydon at all.

Quite simply, Trades Hall does not attack its own, and provides no sanction to those who do — and whilst its own henchman are increasingly being shown to be as bad as the anti-union bogeymen they so viciously and vividly depict at every opportunity, the reality is that the very silence of the same unions currently ranging themselves against a free trade agreement that will generate countless jobs is damning.

It is interesting that even now, Labor (including Shorten) and the unions continue to evoke the spectre of the Howard government’s WorkChoices legislation; gearing up to fight a fourth consecutive election over laws that were repealed six years ago, the inherent contradiction between what the unions now say (and have always said) and what they have done in the past — and may in fact continue to do — is obvious, it seems, to everyone except themselves.

The considerable itinerary of shabby, anti-worker deals getting an airing before Heydon is, I contend, far worse than anything WorkChoices can or could be accused of — real, imagined and/or invented.

And it is through this prism that the ongoing onslaught against the China free trade agreement must be viewed.

At the bottom line, the real issue unions are campaigning against is the prospect their control over Australian workforces, and the companies that employ them, may be diluted in a more open trade environment, but that is hardly a bad thing.

After all, the end destination of unfettered union access to business is finding disclosure at the Royal Commission, and nobody can credibly suggest that the string of transactions being uncovered in any way advances the rights of the worker — which is what the unions are explicitly charged with doing, unless I am mistaken.

Far from defending Australian workers and protecting their jobs by lashing out at the trade deal with China, it is only their own petty interests that are of any concern to the unions at all, and the pattern of behaviour involving the AWU that has come to light is simply an earlier manifestation of the same motives that drive more militant arms of the union movement now.

Three into two does not go: on the one hand, thuggy unions rail against a trade liberalisation pact that carries the potential of great stimulus to Australia’s economy, generating thousands of new jobs, and sharing the proceeds of expanding national opportunities in the world around us with increasing numbers of the ordinary folk the unions purport to represent.

But on the other — when the door closes behind the leaders of those unions — the revelations before Heydon serve potent notice to anyone who cares for fair or decent outcomes exactly what the unions’ true motivations are.

And as far as I am concerned, all of this merely underlines the reasons “modern” unions are thoroughly irrelevant in, and destructive to, contemporary Australia and to the betterment of those who work for an employer to make a living.

There is, or was, a fine tradition of Australian unionism based on authentic notions of a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay, and those who fought for that tradition and were bound by the principle that underpinned it have much to be proud of.

Yet the same cannot be said of the belligerent marauding pack that now masquerades as the champion of the worker, and given the clear self-interest that is evident in the nightmare scenarios it continues to evoke over a trade pact with China, the best thing fair-minded folk can do is to ignore the unions altogether.

 

Canada Election: PM Harper Loses As Tories Trounced

CANADIAN VOTERS have today terminated a decade of conservative rule, handing government to the unproven son of former Liberal Prime Minster Justin Trudeau; the defeat — whilst expected — was more savage than polls had suggested, and sees Justin Trudeau follow in his father’s footsteps at a time Western democracy has trended toward centrist liberalism.

It’s a quick piece from me this evening as I am in Brisbane — en route to the airport to return home — and more to mark the event than to delve into any deep analysis.

Another conservative leader has fallen today (Australian time) with the defeat of Stephen Harper’s Conservatives in the general election in Canada; with results declared at about lunchtime our time, the Liberals — led by the son of former Prime Minster Pierre Trudeau — has won a clear majority in the House of Commons, with perhaps as many as 184 of the 338 seats up for grabs.

The defeated Conservatives fared badly, and worse than expected, winning a projected 99 seats with about 30% of the vote: a swing away from them of eight percentage points, with the consequent loss of almost half the seats they were defending.

The outcome is a stunning triumph for Trudeau Jr, whose party ran third at the previous election four years ago and was signposted by opinion polling just weeks ago to do so again; given he has never held ministerial office and comes from a tentative background as a supply teacher it would be unkind to suggest the new Prime Minister has surfed into office on his father’s name, but the conclusion is impossible not to draw.

I would share some comment from the mainstream press, replete with polling data, maps, and interactive figures, but can’t (and the fact I’m not should give potent notice of why I am about to replace my iPad with a Samsung tablet and banish the user-unfriendly, overrated Apple in favour of something that might actually be fit for the purpose it is bought for).

But I would like to note that one of the best of the present generation of world leaders has been lost; I will be the first to admit I have no idea what sort of government Harper ran on his own patch, but his voice in global affairs and in forums such as APEC and the G7 has added sage counsel and insight for many years, and this will be a loss to the rest of us as much as to those Canadians who voted to re-elect him.

The change comes at a time many Western countries are eschewing hard conservatism in favour of centrist, light liberal governance where the emphasis on personal freedom outweighs questions around the freedom and liberty of societies as wholes.

One would suggest Harper’s defeat at the hands of his own people reflects our own Tony Abbott’s demise at the hands of his own party; yet the centrist Trudeau will find much in common with Malcolm Turnbull, US President Barack Obama, Britain’s David Cameron, and Germany’s Angela Merkel — all (bar Obama) hailing from ostensibly conservative parties, but none of whom could be described as true Tories in the classic sense.

It can be funny how the world works and especially how the cycle turns in politics — locally as well as globally — but if there is to be any takeout from the Canadian result here, it probably augurs well for Malcolm Turnbull as he gears up to fight his first election as Prime Minister.

I will be back with something a little closer to home — and in a little more detail — in the next day or two.