IFFY DEALS selling out workers in return for huge income streams allegedly secured using bogus invoices are a recurring — and, apparently, disturbingly unexceptional — feature of Royal Commission testimony into the AWU on Bill Shorten’s watch as its head; his flat and unequivocal denials are either untrue or betray an executive oblivious to goings-on at his union. Either way, Billy Bullshit is growing less tenable as Labor “leader” by the day.
Is Bill Shorten a liar — a pathological, congenital liar, incapable of uttering a syllable unless spoken with a forked tongue — or merely an incompetent imbecile behind whose back literally any manner of sins may be committed without so much as a flicker of cognisance or remonstration?
Notwithstanding the fact the man himself is on record admitting to lying over his role in the dumpings of Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard successively, you have to wonder.
I must apologise to readers for not posting on this yesterday — as I’d planned to do — but as fate would have it, the delay has merely bolstered that case I intended to make with the emergence of yet another dodgy, wayward deal involving the Australian Workers’ Union during the time it was run by the present “leader” of the ALP.
Readers of the Murdoch press have woken this morning to read that the AWU received close to half a million dollars between 2003 and 2005 — during Shorten’s time in charge of the union — from ACI Glass in a series of payments the company’s former CEO had no idea were being made.
Apparently the company’s former employee relations manager, Michael Gilhome, struck the agreement with Shorten’s sometime deputy and associate at the AWU — disgraced Victorian Labor upper house MP Cesar Melham — “to help cover his travel costs for training.”
Under questioning at the Royal Commission into the union movement yesterday, Gilhome admitted the invoices used to collect the monies were false, and conceded the money was really intended to end a “demarcation dispute.”
According to Gilhome, the use of dodgy invoices “wasn’t an unusual practice.”
The revelation comes a day after further evidence emerged of a deal with John Holland — lead on the consortium contracted to build the Eastlink tollway in Melbourne a decade or so ago — again involving Melham as state secretary, but when Shorten was in charge of the AWU nationally, for $300,000 per annum to be kicked into union coffers using false invoices in an arrangement that traded away statutory conditions for workers on the road building project in return for industrial peace with the union.
That deal — which the industrial agreement on Eastlink obscured from view, as the Daily Telegraph notes — was widely lauded at the time based on what was publicly visible as a modern arrangement that provided “flexibility,” saved John Holland tens of millions of dollars, and saw the union collect its money based on invoices made out for services that were never rendered or called in.
As The Age noted further, officials questioned under oath at the Commission claimed it was in the best interests (of the company and the union) for the deal to be “kept quiet” with the invoices aimed at “disguising the fact that (John Holland was) funding an organiser.”
Add these deals to alleged $40,000 payments to the AWU from a mushroom grower, Chiquita — and a unionised company funding the salary of a fulltime campaign worker for Shorten during his initial bid for a seat in federal Parliament — to the others we have talked about in this column as they have arisen at TURC in recent months, and the pattern that emerges is systemic, entrenched, and apparently of no concern to any of the participants despite the fact such practices were potentially unlawful and almost certainly involved trading away employee conditions in some cases to line the coffers of the Australian Workers’ Union.
That they were irregular is indisputable. The cloak of secrecy being stripped away is potently suggestive of the fact those involved were highly aware of the inappropriate nature of such clandestine arrangements.
What is clear, of course, is that the iffy, dodgy deals now being uncovered and substantiated before the Royal Commission — growing as they are in number and scope the deeper the Inquiry digs — were carried out by the AWU with little regard to the prospect they might one day be publicly revealed beyond the use of invented paperwork to provide a fig leaf of cover: it is getting to the point there are simply too many of these shady arrangements, brazenly struck and for substantial sums of money over a period of years in each case, to conclude otherwise.
The common denominator is Bill Shorten: whether during his tenure in charge of the Victorian branch of the AWU or later when he was responsible for the union nationally, all of the questionable payment deals occurred when he was in charge of the AWU in some capacity or other.
And this takes me back to the question I posited at the outset: Is Shorten a liar or an incompetent imbecile?
It seems, given his role running the AWU either in Victoria or nationally between 2001 and his entry to Parliament in 2007 — and covering the period in which all of the details that have thus far been chronicled and detailed at the Royal Commission were sealed — that it is at best for Shorten an either/or proposition.
Shorten’s denials of wrongdoing, of selling out workers, of improperly benefiting from shady AWU side deals and/or even being involved in such arrangements at all have been emphatic, unconditional and explicit, and I note this here in acknowledgement of his utterances on the subject to date.
The problem, however, is that Billy Bullshit can’t have it both ways: for you see, he has made a little mistake.
Either he knew about what was going on all along, in it up to his neck, and as guilty as sin where any alleged criminal misconduct is concerned — in which case he isn’t fit to serve in Parliament, as a union official, or in any other role of responsibility beyond something menial like scrubbing toilets.
Or, as he says, he knew nothing — in which case the lack of insight, the failures of governance, the non-existent control of his brief and the total lack of oversight of the AWU’s financial affairs betrays a level of incompetence and utter uselessness that should disqualify him from even from a menial humiliation like cleaning toilets.
Then again, I would observe that his performance as opposition “leader” has been so inept, so opportunistic, so vapid and so vacuous that the possibility all this was going on behind his back whilst he remained blissfully ignorant cannot be fully discounted.
Either way, we’re at the point where it’s getting difficult to believe the repeated denials of wrongdoing and complicity that these revelations invariably elicit from Shorten.
Common sense says there is no way the alleged goings-on could have possibly been ignored by a man with two degrees and who is reputed as one of the “finest” organisers the union movement has produced in decades, but on that count we will extend the benefit of the doubt — for now at least.
Yet liar or imbecile — as the case may be — what is now taking solid form is the fact that all Shorten is to the ALP is an unmitigated lability, and it is difficult to say with conviction which of the two might prove more damaging to Labor as the grimy truth is fleshed out.
At some point, Labor’s hardheads are going to wake up to themselves and realise they have to do something; at some point, the reported counting of MPs’ votes by Tanya Plibersek is going to become supercharged by the hard, cold political reality that the longer Shorten remains in his post, the greater the risk he will “lead” the party to oblivion.
Just when does Labor cut its losses, and dump little Billy Bullshit?
It seems implausible we will need to wait much longer to find out.