TURC: Exonerated Perhaps, But Shorten Must Still Quit

BILL SHORTEN can whine about the timing of a statement exonerating him from the Royal Commission into the unions, but likely charges arising from dodgy AWU dealings nonetheless render his own position untenable. Whilst Shorten will not face charges personally, frauds uncovered at the AWU occurred on his watch as the head of that union. Decency and common sense demand he accept responsibility, and dictate that he must resign.

If there is one thing that shits me up the wall about modern Australia — and I am sorry to put it so crudely, but it drives me insane — it is the culture of irresponsibility that seems to have taken root in this country; no-one is ever to blame for anything, and when they’re caught, there’s always a reason they should be free of repercussions or consequences.

It is everywhere you look: from dangerous criminals given kid-glove sentences by keystone Courts to elected representatives acting as lawless parasites on publicly funded largesse, and from workplaces and families to those who think the world owes them something, nobody ever wants to take responsibility for their own actions, or to shoulder the blame when something they have been entrusted with running goes arse-up — irrespective of whether they did it themselves or not.

In this vein, the news that Dyson Heydon’s Royal Commission into the union movement has declined to recommend opposition “leader” Bill Shorten face charges over misconduct occurring when he was in charge of the AWU should rightly be a cause for relief in the Shorten camp; and at the very least, it shows conclusively that contrary to the empty bullshit parroted by the ALP and the unions — not least by Shorten himself — the Commission could not and cannot credibly be described as a mere witch-hunt against opponents of the Liberal Party.

If that’s what it was, Shorten would be staring down the barrel of prosecution today, irrespective of the prospects for conviction. He’s not.

Before we get too far in, some coverage from the mainstream press, as per standard practice, for those who wish to peruse it: from The Australian here and here, and from the Fairfax stable here.

Anyone inclined to pay the slightest notice to statements of “outrage” from Shorten, and those around him, over the decision of the Royal Commission to release submissions from the inquiry’s lawyers shortly after 8pm last night (a Friday night, no less) should dismiss the confected fury from consideration; far from deserving sympathy and/or support, Shorten’s faux indignation is worthy only of scorn, and ridicule, and contempt.

Royal Commissioner Dyson Heydon directed counsel that submissions relating to matters pertaining to the AWU be lodged by close of business yesterday, and it is a matter of credit to the Commission that it made them public so quickly: and as sure as night follows day, had they been held over until after the weekend, then the cold light of Monday morning would see Shorten raging and blustering about undue secrecy, stalling and procrastination, and flinging more slurs at a completely legitimate and entirely reasonable judicial inquest.

You can’t have it both ways — a point Shorten rarely seems bothered by, whether we’re discussing TURC or anything else.

This column has consistently refused to prejudge Shorten on the question of whether or not he would face prosecution over unlawful behaviour uncovered at the Heydon Commission, and for the record it is a matter for neither celebration nor regret that I relay the fact he does not have a case to answer.

But the idea — before the Royal Commission was ever convened — that the union movement in this country is or was free from entrenched, endemic criminal misconduct is and was a proposition so laughable and so implausible as to be believable only by the extremely gullible and the extremely stupid.

It comes as no surprise that as Heydon has progressed, more and more union identities have been referred to law enforcement agencies for prosecution as a direct result of the misdeeds his inquiry has revealed.

But just about everyone at the ALP and the union movement has gone to inordinate lengths to shout the commission down; to attempt to have it wound up; to slur and defame Heydon personally; and in so doing, to brazenly conspire to see to it that efforts to bring to account the miscreant thugs who have operated lawlessly for far too long are thwarted.

And innocent as he may be — and may now proclaim — nobody has been louder or more persistent in such enterprises as Bill Shorten has been.

Yet as innocent as he might be in the most literal sense — judged against the letter of the law — there remains the outstanding issue of the fact that the Australian Workers’ Union has been shown to rank among the most rotten of all the unions examined by the Heydon Commission.

The buck has to stop somewhere.

The outrage of any union lining organisational coffers at the expense of companies it is charged to deal with — and at the cost of workers’ conditions — using falsified paperwork to conceal the nature of those transactions is an obscenity indeed.

But to do it on the scale that apparently took place at the AWU — with deals totalling hundreds of thousands of dollars in income for that union collected from organisationally unaware companies like Cleanevent and John Holland — is reprehensible.

It seems inarguable that in all of the cases Heydon examined that involved the AWU, some (if not all) of the money raked in by the AWU was paid to purchase “industrial peace:” or, to put it another way, union thugs hardwired to behave like animals and bring anarchy and violence to workplaces (and whole communities and cities) would desist if they were just paid off.

To a layman, the use of falsified paperwork to collect clandestine payments for purposes counter to the nature of the goods and services that are nominally invoiced is a fraud, and where the AWU has been concerned, there appears to have been an awful lot of fraudulent activity going on, based on the disclosures before Justice Heydon.

And whilst I reiterate acknowledgement that Shorten has been excused from any case to answer, the fact all of this occurred during his tenure at the helm of the union (either as the head of its Victorian division or nationally) requires a “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil” interpretation of events to accept he had no knowledge of what was going on even if that knowledge failed to expose him to the threat of facing charges.

Others can judge for themselves whether such a proposition is credible or not.

And in any case, the buck — as I suggested earlier — has to stop somewhere.

This isn’t a case of an isolated official going rogue, or a one-off incidence of someone doing the wrong thing; the revelations involving the AWU clearly show a repeated and systematic pattern of abuse by that union of selling out workers’ conditions in exchange for large cash payments on invoices made out for goods and services that were never delivered.

Bill Shorten may not have a case to answer before a Court, but in the court of public opinion his exoneration by the Royal Commission cannot, should not and must not absolve him of blame or responsibility for what went on at the AWU when he was in charge of it.

He may not face charges, but the negligence and oversight displayed by such a reputedly diligent and detail-focused union official is unforgivable, and indicatively speaks volumes about how he might fare as Prime Minister if — God forbid — he were to ever achieve that high office.

Anyone in his position in a medium to large private company who failed to notice and remedy such widespread illegal behaviour would, in the wash-up from its discovery, be fired, and whilst Heydon’s Commission has cleared Shorten personally of breaking the law, it has made no judgement on his competence or otherwise, and that is appropriate.

Very simply, however, if Shorten had a skerrick of decency, he would resign the leadership of the ALP on Monday morning.

Even in the absence of charges to answer, he has been shown in a poor light indeed, and he has only himself to blame for that.

He has neither the credibility nor, based on an objective consideration of the union he ran for a decade, the competence to serve in high office.

And it goes without saying that this bullshit artist — a self-admitted lying, scheming, manipulative back-stabber — is unelectable, and is unfit to be Prime Minister.

If Shorten had a scrap of decency about him — nay, if he really was the paragon of virtue those misguided hacks who defend him claim — he would welcome the finding by Heydon’s Inquiry that he has no case to answer; but he would shoulder the ethical and moral responsibility for what went on at his union, on his watch, and he would quit.

The words “ethical” and “moral” do not belong in the same sentence as any consideration of Bill Shorten, and it is with reticence that I place them thus now.

Typically, he will not resign; or at least, not yet.

Excused as he may be for now, there is no guarantee the overall fallout from the Royal Commission will have any other effect than to hit the ALP like a ton of bricks.

The Labor Party remains dangerously exposed to decimation as a result of what has been allowed to happen in the union movement, and Shorten remains culpable for that.

Common sense and decency dictate that Shorten’s career in public life is finished: and whilst he may not resign on Monday, those anticipating his departure seem unlikely to have long to wait.

 

Another Day, Another Deal: Just When Does Labor Dump Shorten?

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.

Royal Commission Farce Shows Shorten Unfit To Be PM

IT TAKES CHUTZPAH to spend two unco-operative days giving non-answers to questions at a Royal Commission, only to brief press immediately afterwards that you were asked to co-operate and did, but Bill Shorten has done it; unwilling or unable to give plausible answers to questions of iffy conduct at a union he ran for years, Shorten has shown himself unfit to be Prime Minister. Labor will pay a heavy price if it retains him as its “leader.”

One of the best wraps of Bill Shorten’s pathetic account of himself yesterday at the Heydon inquiry into the trade union movement comes from the Courier Mail this morning; no reasonable observer could accept Shorten was really taking proceedings seriously as he gave answers to questions that seemed designed to obfuscate, delay, and frustrate, and — remembering a Royal Commission is essentially a judicial proceeding — provoke a retired High Court judge by making no secret of the fact the overriding prerogative was to provide no meaningful disclosures whatsoever.

Labor and the unions are outraged by this Royal Commission, which they see as no more than a politically motivated witch hunt.

However, for witch hunts to be worth pursuing, there must first be witches to hunt.

In this regard, the Australian public has been treated to a horrifying picture of the methods and priorities of the unions and some of their key figures; the culture of striking deals with major companies — often involving labour supply discounted well below levels Labor and union rhetoric suggests would or could ever be regarded acceptable — whilst rivers of cash pour into union coffers in return for industrial peace (and through bogus memberships in the names of unknowing employees) is contemptible.

As I have said throughout, even if these practices are legal, they are ethically abhorrent, and exude the distinct whiff of hypocrisy: for whilst the ALP and the unions seemingly fight every election on the spectre of WorkChoices nowadays, what is being revealed is arguably worse than any alleged ills thrown up by the Howard government’s long-defunct workplace laws.

Indeed, there is one glaring difference: under the methods being aerated by the Heydon inquiry, the unions have been revealed to have profited handsomely whereas under WorkChoices, they did not. It is a dubious distinction at best, and hardly anything for the unions to crow about.

It is, perhaps, for this reason most of these deals were struck with little or no written detail, and were concealed from public view.

But in this context, Shorten seems to have forgotten that he was not only the man in charge of the AWU, at various levels, for many years, but — despite his bold assertions in almost exactly these terms — is now Labor’s candidate for the Prime Ministership of this country.

And in this context, voters — already less than enamoured with Shorten, if reputable polling is any guide — have seen a lot to dislike this week about the man who would “lead” them.

In a mirror image to his refusal to acknowledge any fault on his party’s part for the woefully mismanaged federal budget and the almost half-trillion dollar debt pile racked up as the direct result of its incompetence, Shorten the ex-union official refuses to concede he or his union did anything wrong.

By arguing the point before Heydon, he has signalled a belief that it is acceptable for unions to receive tens of thousands of dollars from employers whilst negotiating employment agreements that either fail to optimise conditions or — worse — apparently trade away pay and conditions for under-the-table kickbacks.

In rushing to regularise his financial returns under the Electoral Act this week — namely, to declare the “gift” of wages for a campaign manager at his campaign for the safe seat of Maribyrnong in 2007 — he has signalled a view that it is acceptable for a union leader negotiating workplace agreements to simultaneously receive donations clearly aimed at furthering personal political objectives. It is a poor look, and a conflict of interest whose like must be explicitly outlawed if it is, in fact, found to be legal.

The partial or complete lack of documentation in regard to deals that feathered AWU nests in exchange for striking favourable enterprise agreements can only be interpreted as an attempt to conceal these matters from scrutiny, and to attempt to ensure they could never be discovered: and for that, malicious dismissals of the Royal Commission as a witch hunt ring false, for there is a clear public interest in the details of arrangements covering large numbers of workers being transparent: yet those details have had to be painstakingly extracted from multiple witnesses before the Commission to fully sketch out the whole grimy picture.

On all of these counts, Shorten’s concern, metaphorically, has amounted to little more than a cheesy grin and a shrug of the shoulders.

But his behaviour at the Heydon inquiry has been such that were it to be replicated in a Court proper, he would in likelihood be charged with contempt: and anyone who thinks such a cavalier disregard for judicial process is somehow appropriate or worth bragging about is a grub.

Former ALP President Bob Hogg is right: Shorten’s position as Labor “leader” is untenable, and he should “just go,” or resign; Hogg — himself prosecuted over irregularities under the Electoral Act — has been wildly and viciously attacked by Labor, the unions and the Fairfax press as carrying no moral imprimatur at all, and as a hypocrite, but these dismissals miss the point.

Just because Hogg himself was guilty of what Shorten is now being investigated over does not mean his judgement in Shorten’s case is wrong.

Shorten has shown himself to be, at best, too economical with the truth to be trusted.

His behaviour — not his proclamations of willingness to co-operate — at and around the Heydon commission betrays a man who believes himself above criticism, beyond reproach, immune to the law, and indeed free to behave as a law unto himself.

In turn, this fleshes out a rapidly hardening public perception of Shorten as a shifty, scheming, treacherous, glib, nihilistic liar whose only concerns are for himself and his own personal ambitions — and not, as he too readily proclaims, for “the workers he has spent years working hard on behalf of.”

It may not lead to charges, but the detail already uncovered by the Royal Commission points in the opposite direction to such claims.

The point is that Labor is saddled with a “leader” who, in my view, is incapable of winning a federal election.

Those opposed to the Coalition will point to the modest lead the ALP still retains on the two-party measure in most polls as evidence to the contrary, but the Howard government — in office for almost twelve years and four election victories — trailed Labor, as the Abbott government does now, for most of its tenure.

A new leader is the first and most critical requirement for a Labor Party seeking an early return to office. The problem, as eloquently highlighted by Melbourne’s Herald Sun this afternoon, is that the ALP’s leadership stocks — critically and objectively assessed — run little deeper than a wading pool.

And I will be the first to admit I desperately hope Shorten “leads” Labor to the next federal election.

For now, however, Shorten and Labor are mired in the worst of all worlds.

They have a “leader” for whom sincerity, credibility and integrity are attributes noticeable only by their absence — in the political sense at least — whose performance at the Heydon inquiry has probably put the final nail in the coffin where Shorten’s prospects of ever being elected Prime Minister are concerned.

They now stare down the barrel of the constant threat of a snap election: should Tony Abbott call an immediate double dissolution, Shorten will steer Labor to almost certain — and perhaps catastrophic — defeat, but if the Labor Party moves to dump him or he resigns, an election announcement halfway through the party’s convoluted and protracted new process for selecting a replacement could well see it literally leaderless for a solid portion of any election campaign.

And thanks to his almost pointless appearance as a witness at the Royal Commission this week, additional appearances are virtually certain to follow — and with them, further evidence (were it required) of just how un-Prime Ministerial an individual Shorten really is.

The only constant in all of this is Shorten himself: now damned if he stays or damned of he goes, either way Labor is probably lumbered with him for no better reason than the risk replacing him might trigger an immediate unwinnable election is too great to countenance.

Even so, and whatever his past misdemeanours and shortcomings, Hogg is right: if Shorten had a shred of real decency or concern for the party he professes to love, he would recognise he has squandered his opportunity to lead it in government, resign forthwith, and spare the ALP the excruciating agony of deciding what to do with him.

That he will not means the ALP will pay a very heavy price indeed, and for all of its apparatchiks and thugs who protest that the Coalition should face a Royal Commission, or that Hogg is a crook who should be ignored, or any of the other half-baked excuses being deployed to apologise for Shorten, a central truth remains.

For once, it is all about them: their current “leader” has ensured it is so, and has spent many years in a range of roles working himself — and them — into the dire predicament they now confront.

Rather than defending him to the hilt, they would perhaps be better served considering the incalculable political and electoral damage he stands to inflict on the Labor Party, and throwing him overboard.

But they won’t, of course, for at the Labor Party, you don’t commit such bastardry against a “maaate,” or at least that’s the theory: and in the end, if Abbott pulls on a double dissolution to trap Shorten in his current role, his colleagues will soon learn the full extent of the liability they have saddled themselves with.

 

Toxic Shorten Terminal After Royal Commission Snafu

BILL SHORTEN’S TESTIMONY at the Royal Commission into the unions resumes today, but on a purely political level yesterday’s showing by the Labor “leader” is enough to irretrievably compound the damage he’s already inflicted on himself in the normal course of business; even if legal, voters will view the revelations as further proof of a deeply untrustworthy figure who would govern in his own interests and to Australia’s deep detriment.

I should emphasise at the outset that I make no judgement whatsoever on any legal liability Bill Shorten might or might not face as a result of his appearance at the Heydon inquiry this week; my remarks pertain to the political consequences of that investigation only.

And I should like to note, for the benefit of those whose instinct might be to engage in a little pedantry, that whilst I have summarily written Shorten off multiple times in the past — most recently here and here — the various activities and antics that have generated those judgements are cumulative; this column maintains that Shorten is as transparent as a pane of clear, clean glass, and that the only thing he stands for is himself. I think Shorten long ago revealed himself as an unelectable troublemaker who can’t be trusted.

Yesterday’s revelations will have only clarified that perception in the minds of voters.

The revelation, for example, that a now-defunct labour hire company — Unibilt — paid Shorten’s AWU $40,000 that in turn was used to fund the wages for Shorten’s campaign manager in the seat of Maribyrnong at the 2007 federal election has every appearance of a grotty, grimy, cumbersome arrangement irrespective of whether it was legal or not.

That appearance is only hardened by the accompanying revelation that disclosure under the requirements of the Electoral Act was only finalised on Monday, two days prior to Shorten’s Royal Commission testimony.

Labor types and Shorten sycophants made a great deal of noise in social media yesterday, arguing that late and/or updated declarations of donations are not unique and are, on the face of it, quite legal, and perhaps in this case a similar sentiment applies.

But the fact this particular arrangement — hidden from public eyes for almost eight years — only came to light, by Shorten’s own admission, after he had “received papers from the Royal Commission” smacks of a desperate fix-it job and an attempt merely to stay one step ahead of the pack, and hardly suggests the disclosure would have been forthcoming were it not to be aired in the context of a judicial inquiry.

Rightly or wrongly, Shorten’s denials of any knowledge of the now-notorious enterprise bargaining agreement between the AWU and Cleanevent that ripped workers off will ring even hollower than they already have.

The explanation that it was possible for “mature people” to negotiate an enterprise agreement on the one hand, whilst the company (Unibilt) was busy proffering cash to fund the union official’s campaign for a seat to Parliament, is a nuanced story that sounds too clever by half and will I think be regarded dimly in the electorate.

More ambiguity was cast on the arrangements that saw Cleanevent paying the AWU for membership fees on behalf of its employees, with the notion they could “opt out” by virtue of ticking an obscure box at the time of their employment will do little to dispel public perceptions of an unhealthy and arbitrary relationship between the AWU and the companies it dealt with on Shorten’s watch as head of that union.

And those who paid the proceedings at the Commission any attention at all yesterday would have been disgusted by Shorten’s apparently selective, total losses of memory, and as one wit on Twitter quipped, he exhibited flawless recall of not committing an assault against a young girl 30 years ago that he was accused of last year, but couldn’t remember key aspects of his dealings as a union executive over a period spanning decades.

It is this kind of public sentiment Shorten is merely hardening through his utterances in the witness box — even if it is found he has no case for prosecution to answer.

His wont to variously lecture to the Commission and attempt to implicate Tony Abbott in his testimony was not merely out of context, but inappropriate: and whilst the natural instinct of any cornered individual facing serious allegations is to fight, Shorten yesterday showed all the hallmarks of a man prepared to say and do anything — to anyone — in order to get his own arse out of the sling.

In fact, this propensity to say and do anything to anyone — literally — follows a pattern with Shorten, and coming so soon after the ABC’s expose into Labor’s years in office — The Killing Season — yesterday will have done little to alter the perception that Shorten is no more than a treacherous grub concerned solely with his own survival and his own advancement.

Coming soon after 3AW broadcaster Neil Mitchell outed Shorten for lying over his role in the leadership coup against Julia Gillard, it isn’t a look Shorten can afford to perpetuate.

As ever, I include links to a couple of additional articles for further reading that may be accessed here and here.

I will be keeping an eye on what goes on at the Royal Commission today, and will post again tonight, time permitting.

But if yesterday is anything to go by, Shorten is unlikely to do himself any favours no matter what Heydon confronts him with: and whilst it’s entirely possible something truly apocalyptic may be aired today, the simple fact is that in the eyes of voters, all these proceedings serve to do is to worsen the damage to an already-unviable “leader” whose political stocks were destroyed by his own handiwork long before he was called to appear before Heydon.

“Billy Bullshit” had a bad day yesterday. Today’s hearing arguably offers him little respite.

 

New AWU Scandal: Now Fairfax Press Turns On Shorten

IN A WEEK of toxic revelations and developments for Bill Shorten, Fairfax Media — a traditional Labor friend — has leapt into the gathering anti-Shorten storm, leading the charge on the latest iffy AWU deal involving Shorten to be exposed, and promising “explosive results” of an investigation into his character, politics and allegiances. That Shorten is harming the ALP is undeniable. That it must offload him to preserve itself is beyond doubt.

The appearance of an Editorial today in Fairfax publication the Sydney Morning Herald, of all places, more or less signals the passage of the  use-by date for Bill Shorten’s “leadership” of the Australian Labor Party: if, that is, there was anything useful about it in the first place.

It more or less echoes, too, sentiments articulated in this column earlier in the week, as we suggested Shorten must either respond to the growing list of allegations swirling around his tenure at the helm of the Australian Workers’ Union or resign if he refuses to do so, and as we argued Shorten was an unmitigated liability who stands for nothing, and whom his colleagues will fail to overthrow to their (and their party’s) enduring cost.

And in furtherance of our argument last Friday — and to revisit a rare use in this column of the wit and wisdom of Joh Bjelke-Petersen — Shorten’s attempts to walk with one foot on either side of a barbed wire fence now stand to inflict grievous harm upon both himself and the ALP.

The emergence overnight of a fresh set of revelations about deals done between the AWU and a unionised company — this time, Thiess John Holland, in its guise as the anchor company of Melbourne’s Eastlink toll road a decade ago — surely lands a fatal blow on Shorten’s leadership, or at the minimum compels him, ethically and morally and in fidelity with the Australian public, to fully explain the burgeoning itinerary of questionable AWU activity that continues to emerge daily, for the longer this drags on, the deeper Shorten will drag his party into the excremental cesspool that apparently characterises the standard business practices of the union movement in this country.

Ominously for Shorten, that article ends with the promise of “explosive” results from an exhaustive Fairfax investigation into his character, politics, allegiances and deals — past and present — to be published over the next four days, and if what it has turned up to date (and in view of the traditionally Labor-friendly Sydney Morning Herald apparently already washing its hands of him), the pressure on Shorten’s position seems likely to become stifling, and irresistible.

In the interests of balance, it should be noted that the latest set of allegations involving Shorten and the AWU drew a response in the Australian Financial Review — another Fairfax masthead, which interestingly enough opted not to hide the piece behind its paywall — from respected businessman and chairman of the consortium that built Eastlink (ConnectEast), Tony Shepherd, who robustly defended the Labor “leader” on the basis the workplace agreement between the parties did not compromise overall worker entitlements, and we can perhaps accept that on its merits.

What Shepherd didn’t (or perhaps, couldn’t) explain away was the fact that once again, it appears monies were paid to the AWU by the constituent companies within that consortium — for reasons and/or purposes that only Mr Shorten can explain — and for which no explanation that is remotely satisfactory, credible or in fact believable has ever been offered.

With the enterprise agreement between ConnectEast and the AWU said to have realised savings to the consortium (depending on what you include in the figure) of between $100 million and $300 million, it is difficult to believe unattributed explanations from “Labor figures” that the money was spent on “safety training.”

Those explanations beggars belief — and remember, OH&S or “workplace safety training” has already been used, unconvincingly and without corroborating proof, by AWU figures in the past week in an attempt to explain away similarly suspicious movements of money that can only be viewed as pay-offs: purchases of industrial peace, freedom from industrial disputes and ambit action at Fair Work Australia, or any of the other mechanisms for industrial thuggery, buggery and bastardry militant unions deploy against businesses that refuse to fall into line.

They lose any semblance of credibility at all when another forensic investigation, this time by the Murdoch press, validated findings from a Fairfax expose that found the monies gifted to the AWU had been accounted for in such vague terms as “service,” “membership,” and even one line item for $94,317 from Thiess John Holland recorded as “???.”

It is patently obvious that Shorten’s proposed timetable to answer the allegations around what is emerging about his union when the Heydon Royal Commission sits again in late August or September is neither adequate nor suitable; Shorten’s party will have all but imploded by that stage at the rate the material is appearing, and — whilst I am neither a friend of the ALP nor wish it one iota of fortune or political succour — those Australians inclined to support the ALP deserve effective representation by a functional leader advancing an alternative blueprint for the governance of the country.

(Updated, 12.50am Friday 19 June: Shorten will now face the Heydon inquiry on July 8, some six to eight weeks earlier than originally proposed. I would make the observation that even the intervening three weeks between now and 8 July is more than enough time for Shorten to blunder into more trouble. But even so).

It is here that the bigger problem surfaces, for nobody except the most unseeing of acolytes could accuse Shorten of being “a leader” in any way, shape, or form; the utter vacuity and at times self-defeating negativity with which he has approached his position has neither improved outcomes of governance nor — tellingly — placed the Abbott government in the terminal electoral position his antics are so transparently contrived to seek to engineer.

I might be no friend of the Left, and perfectly content to watch it implode, and there are millions of like-minded conservative voters around Australia who will watch Shorten’s unfolding predicament with something approaching a sense of vindication, if not unbridled glee.

But there are equally millions of others — the merits of their ideas not up for debate for once — who can rightly feel cheated and short-changed by what has been dished up as “leadership” by the present incumbent at the ALP over the past 18 months.

Nobody can believe anything Shorten has to say; and for so long now, his vapid one-liners and truly awful “zingers” have been interspersed with just enough diversionary stunts to make any reasonable observer question what, if anything, Shorten is committed to at all.

Last month — knowing the mutterers were muttering and beginning to count caucus votes in favour of Tanya Plibersek — Shorten launched a silly “it’s time” stunt on gay marriage that predictably fizzled out, for it is implausible to believe Shorten is capable of inspiring confidence in the masses about anything, let alone leading them to an outcome.

Now, with the shit hitting the fan at the Heydon inquiry over the AWU and the consequent splatters landing all over his face, Shorten was busy on Twitter last night cosying up to Rosie Batty over domestic violence: and with no disrespect whatsoever toward Ms Batty, and no belittlement intended over what is a very serious social scourge and women’s safety issue that must be stamped out at all costs, Shorten managed to cheapen her and it, for the inescapable conclusion is that his attentions amount to nothing more than just another attempt to divert attention from his other problems.

Those problems, to be sure, are Labor’s problems.

To that end, the ALP is between a rock and a hard place, faced by a resurgent government coming off a reasonably well received budget, holding double dissolution triggers, and looking for a pretext to use them.

It says much that at the very time small but certain signs emerge that the structural and personnel problems that saw the Abbott government almost implode less than six months ago remain very much in evidence, Shorten’s — and Labor’s — best efforts seem increasingly likely to reap a second successive election loss that looks to be building in magnitude by the day.

It remains the preference of this column that Shorten continue to “lead” the ALP up to and including election day (whenever that is 🙂   ), for the very best political interests of the Liberal Party and its members and supporters will be well served by the total incompetence and abominable unsuitability of the present Labor “leader” to the highest office in Australian politics.

But the purpose of this column is to analyse and comment, not to daydream in hope, and so I will simply say this.

The conundrum Labor faces is that if Plibersek and her cohorts can muster the 60% of MPs — 48 of Labor’s 80 — required to spill their party’s leadership, they risk triggering the announcement of an election date the instant Labor is declared leaderless, in a move by the Coalition — to echo one of Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s predecessors — to catch the ALP with its collective pants well and truly down.

Faced with a choice between taking Shorten to an election on the one hand, or the chaos and disarray that being leaderless during an election announcement would communicate to the electorate on the other, I actually think the ALP’s best decision in such a scenario would be to push Shorten off the cliff — and deal with the election hurdle if and when it arises.

After all, I’m sure Labor’s national executive can find the way around Kevin Rudd’s silly leadership rules to cede the power to elect a leader back to the caucus within hours, if not minutes, if such a situation were to materialise.

So limited is Shorten as a “leadership” prospect, and so limited is his party with him at the helm, it would actually stand a better chance electorally to be found leaderless and in need of a hurried appointment if an election were called than it would be going into such a contest with Shorten “leading” the charge.

But Labor is not my party. Never has been, never will be. For now, the continued presence of Bill Shorten in his current role is doing untold damage to the ALP and risks consigning it to a decade in the wilderness.

If sober minds and rational heads at the Labor Party see fit to continue on their present trajectory, then this column will be one of a rapidly multiplying number of voices whose warnings, such as they have been, will have gone unheeded.

Even Labor’s best friend in the media — the Fairfax press — is now bellowing that Shorten must go.

Enough said.

AWU Allegations: Shorten Must Respond Now Or Resign

VACANT LABOR MINDS and others on the Left who bray for the establishment of “a federal ICAC” should be fast to concur with me today, for the Heydon Royal Commission — the nearest thing yet convened — touches federal MPs, national organisations in the unions, and issues of national importance. It has heard allegations of corrupt and criminal misconduct at the union once run by Bill Shorten who, if he refuses to respond now, must quit.

There will be some who read today’s article, and wonder whether I have taken leave of my senses, for all of us know that proper process must take its course when it comes to court proceedings or — in this case — those of a Royal Commission, which in many respects is a judicial forum in its own right.

But so — by virtue of the powers invested in it — is the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption, or ICAC: a statutory entity the federal mouthpieces of the Left gaze longingly toward from Canberra, and which since the election of the Abbott government almost two years ago has been an item near the top of their wish list.

Of course, this hankering after “a federal ICAC” has nothing to do with decency, or principle, or cleanliness of governance in the eyes of the Left; on everything from asylum seeker policy to university funding, and from health policy to the federal budget, empty-headed stooges from the ALP, the Communist Party Greens and even the unions have increasingly found ways of slipping the “need” for “a federal ICAC” into their daily lexicon and media talking points.

Today’s article aims to serve two purposes: one, to revisit the events of the past week and assess the most recent development; and two, to hold the Labor Party (and its supposed “leader” in particular) to their own standards, and to demand that Bill Shorten either immediately answer the allegations that potentially implicate him in misconduct that apparently took place during his time in charge of the Australian Workers’ Union, or — if he continues to refuse to do so — to demand his resignation as opposition “leader” and his replacement by a more credible candidate.

There is a reason for the timing of my rather unorthodox demand of Shorten; two reasons, actually. We will come back to those shortly.

But firstly, for those who haven’t seen the past couple of articles I’ve published, you can access them here and here: these articles detail, in tandem with coverage from the mainstream press that I have linked into them, revelations from the Heydon inquiry into the trade union movement last week that appear — until or unless evidence to the contrary emerges — to have shone the spotlight into practices at the AWU that might euphemistically be described as “dubious” at best, or downright rotten at worst, and it seems that where the Royal Commission was charged with identifying and rooting out corruption and lawlessness in Australian unions, it has found these things in the very union once presided over by Shorten in his past life as a union hack.

Almost exactly a year ago, I published a piece in this column arguing that Shorten — for the good of the Labor Party — must quit; that missive has proven prescient, with all of the potential electoral positives held by Shorten Labor at the time having since all but evaporated, and my warnings of the potential for the Heydon inquiry to explode in Shorten’s face might almost have been written after the event, so closely are matters playing out in this regard.

Yet the point from that article last June I most wish to emphasise again now is Shorten’s value to the ALP — he has none, of course — and as I call for him to either answer the allegations and insinuations now that have been levelled against him and the AWU at the Commission or, again, to resign, the complete worthlessness of Bill Shorten to his party (or, in any other meaningful aspect of public life and governance, to anyone or anything else) is the bottom line in a tawdry political career that never merited his knifing a Labor MP to grab his seat in the first place let alone being permitted to progress as far as it has.

One of my favourite columnists — Piers Akerman, from Sydney’s Daily Telegraph — published an article at the weekend that is more or less complementary to the case made in this column where the alleged misdeeds of the AWU and Shorten’s role in them, if any, are concerned, and there are two big take-outs I want to share knowing that not everyone who reads this particular article will also read the one Piers has penned.

One — and in a reflection of virtually every utterance Shorten has made on the AWU since it became the headline feature at the Royal Commission — Piers notes yet again that Shorten “guarantees…that (the AWU) always improved workers’ conditions, full stop” and that insofar as his own role at the AWU is concerned, he “spent every day of (his) adult life representing workers” and that his record “is there for all to see.”

And two, aside from the particularisation of an itinerary if iffy deals done with the imprimatur of the AWU that have already found their way before Heydon, it seems to have been a cause for admiration and extollation among Shorten’s colleagues — Paul Howes and Richard Marles being quoted in Piers’ piece — that on Shorten’s watch, the AWU apparently found new and creative ways to penetrate companies and industries it had never previously reached, and that not only was this a cause for celebration among Shorten’s fellow travellers, but it sounds suspiciously like it was a cause for wonder and amazement, too.

The sheer stoicism of Shorten’s insistence that he can prove himself innocent should be taken at face value, and so should the apparent awe in which his obviously unorthodox methods of what we will call “business development” were regarded by his contemporaries: these seemingly opposed, and perhaps irreconcilable positions, demand clarification without delay.

Clearly, the time for Shorten to give a satisfactory account of himself is now, not in three months’ time when the Commission is scheduled to sit again.

On that point, I do think the Heydon inquiry has committed a public disservice; that the Commission has unearthed widespread, entrenched and rampant oddities in the behaviour of unions is a surprise to nobody not embedded within or deeply sympathetic to the outdated concept of unionism as the present union movement embodies it, but to have allowed that trail to lead directly to a former union official who now “leads” one of Australia’s two major political parties — and then recess for (apparently) three months — is ridiculous.

It is not a cliff-hanger in some arcane weekly B-grade US daytime soap opera; it is a Royal Commission.

As I suggested earlier, Labor types are among the most vocal in calling for “a federal ICAC” and they want it for no better reason than to deflect the Royal Commission currently probing the filthy laundry of their puppet-master brethren at the unions back in the direction of the Liberal and National Parties.

But in truth, even this is flimsy cover for the fact that all they really want is the facility to endlessly refer conservative politicians to anti-corruption investigation agencies to flesh out more of their opportunistic and dishonest waffle that all conservatives are corrupt: the Heydon Commission, in this regard, is merely a fortuitous coincidence for the Left, and if anyone doesn’t believe it they should research the not-inconsiderable effort Labor in Queensland invested whilst in opposition to an endless array of referrals of the Newman government to that state’s Crime and Corruption Commission that led, in total, exactly nowhere.

To date, the Heydon inquiry is the closest thing to “a federal ICAC” that has been constituted; and if Labor and its thuggy mates over at the unions dislike what that Commission is doing, they would be well served to take care in what they wish for: “a federal ICAC” would be free to dig wherever it liked, and anyone who thinks there isn’t a rich seam of shit to mine in and around the ALP — even discounting the unions for a moment — is delusional, totally naive, or a bit of both.

Yet for now, Shorten has been explicitly clear that he will make no comment whatsoever on the matters raised before Heydon until the Royal Commission sits again in September, and there are two very good reasons why this isn’t good enough — and why Shorten, indeed, is a special case for whom some kind of accommodation, and an opportunity to defend himself, should be afforded to him at the earliest juncture possible.

The first comes in the form of an issue that is well known to readers and voters alike: the “original” AWU scandal, involving a slush fund and featuring involvement by another former Labor leader (and Prime Minister) in Julia Gillard; this suppurating sore festered and germinated for almost 20 years before it was finally established that whatever inferences to the contrary might have otherwise been drawn, Gillard had done nothing wrong or at least, nothing that was criminal, even if her actions did cost her her job at Slater and Gordon in 1995.

I raise that issue again now because there is no point in drawing out any process by which Shorten is required to give an account of himself; true, in Gillard’s case, she dodged and weaved and went to inordinate lengths to prevent details about the circumstances peculiar to her from becoming public knowledge when in the end, they did anyway, and whilst a lot of grief was needlessly caused as a result, it is difficult to think even Shorten would find such a wild goose chase satisfying when he knows it would only delay and prolong the inevitable.

And the second reason goes simply to Shorten’s present job, and to the needless distraction the delay would cause not just to the ALP — I’m not so concerned about them, of course — but to governance in Australia generally, as once again the risk of the entire political discourse being diverted into a legal shitfight looms large.

Of course, three months of stout and testy denials of wrongdoing, along with equally resolute refusals to explain himself, would see Shorten become cannon fodder for the Liberal Party, which would probably take the opportunity to tear him to shreds even before Heydon gets him into the witness box.

But whilst that prospect is not an unappealing one — despite my view the Coalition would be well served by keeping Shorten right where he is as a putative election opponent — I nonetheless feel Shorten’s “leadership” of the ALP is terminal anyway, irrespective of anything to do with the Royal Commission, and that he is likely to be overthrown in the next few months irrespective of whether he can distance himself from its probe into the AWU or not.

Just as Arthur Sinodinis stepped aside from the Abbott ministry whilst under investigation by ICAC last year, eventually resigning when it seemed the protracted proceedings were damaging the government, Shorten should do the same thing now; whether he is able to resume the Labor leadership at a later date if found to have no case to answer is a matter for his colleagues, but he isn’t doing anyone — his party, his union comrades, or the Australian public — any favours at all by digging in and stonewalling when there’s a three-month wait for him to put his case.

Shorten is, as of Friday, a required witness at the Heydon Commission: it is therefore safe to assert he is now under investigation by the Royal Commission, just as Sinodinis was at ICAC, and it is proper that he follow the lead Sinodinis’ actions set.

I think that Shorten should confront the accusations against him head-on now: it could be a detailed public statement, rebutting point-by-point his alleged (or insinuated) involvement in the scandals being uncovered at the AWU, with the promise of hard evidence to substantiate any claims he makes now to be produced when he takes the stand in September.

And I think it better that he do it in a forum where his remarks will be on the record, and thus subject to the laws of the land: no parliamentary privilege for this exercise in other words, should Shorten undertake it. It would be in the public interest for any statement by Shorten on these matters to be actionable, and it might even engender some confidence and respect for him among the millions of increasingly sceptical voters his political conduct to date suggests he takes for fools.

But if such a statement is just too much for Shorten and his cronies to stomach, then he must resign; in the circumstances, his position is shaky enough as it is, and for this to drag on for months, unanswered, would see Bill Shorten become the only issue in Australian politics until his interrogation by a Royal Commission and a forensic dismantling of any evidence he produces by its personnel.

This country simply can’t afford the indulgence. And even if it could, based on Shorten’s track record in politics to date, there’s no value to be gained from such an indulgence at all.

 

The AWU Scandal And Labor’s WorkChoices Lie

A FILTHY SUB-PLOT to the fiasco engulfing the Australian Workers’ Union has emerged, with details of an AWU EBA becoming public; whether illegality is proven or not, it seems the AWU was selling members out as unions were spending $13 million to campaign against John Howard’s WorkChoices laws. The revelation smashes ALP claims that “fairness” drives its refusal to debate penalty rates, and further imperils Bill Shorten’s “leadership.”

Irrespective of whether charges are eventually laid over the stinking mess being uncovered at the Royal Commission into the union movement that threatens to engulf the Australian Workers’ Union and terminate Bill Shorten’s political career, Labor and its thuggy union brethren stand exposed, and condemned, today: at best, of a flagrant and reprehensible lie to both the Australian public and to their own members and supporters; and at worst, of an attempt to rig a federal election in 2007 that the ALP would otherwise have been unlikely to win.

Either way, the credibility of both entities, where the fraught subject of penalty rates and their impost on small businesses is concerned, is now precisely zero.

I’m not going to bang on today about the violent, lawless, militant excesses of the worst aspects of the union movement in this country, although — as ever — these are reason enough for decent, ordinary folk to look forward to the day union influence and power in Australia is smashed to smithereens, for the unions in their present incarnation represent an edifice that has long passed its use-by date.

But I have been reading an explosive feature on the AWU in today’s edition of The Australian, and a little exercise in playing connect-the-dots suggests that at the same time the union movement was spending in excess of $10 million to buy a federal election win for the Labor Party, it was doing and maintaining deals with selected preferred businesses that stripped away the very penalty rates and worker entitlements it so noisily claimed it would fight forever to protect whilst pocketing…well, whilst pocketing lump-sum payments from those companies for which it is yet to provide any cogent or plausible explanation.

One of those companies — as the week’s events have shown, and as today’s piece in The Australian details — was Cleanevent.

I urge readers to take the time to read the linked article, for I am not going to replicate its contents contemporaneously; but whichever way you cut it — and to date neither Shorten nor any of the key players involved from either the AWU or the company have denied it — the ferocious insistence that all penalty rates and worker entitlements are non-negotiable, as promulgated by the ALP and the union movement, is selectively applicable at best, and just another tool with which to wreak industrial bastardry and political trouble at worst.

The deal struck between the AWU and Cleanevent in 1999, rolled over in 2004 (when signed by Shorten) and — crucially — in 2006, at the height of the unions’ massive campaign against WorkChoices and the “erosion” of workers’ rights, and again in 2010, traded away penalty rates and other loadings in favour of a flat rate paid to casual employees of about $18 per hour, which was payable by Cleanevent even if its staff worked on public holidays, late at night, or (I presume) through shifts exceeding eight hours in length.

The $18 hourly rate compared with an average rate payable by Cleanevent’s competitors of about $28-$29, as the article details.

With reported wage savings to Cleanevent in the order of $2 million annually and competitors locked out of striking a similar deal with the AWU — with one competitor quoted in the article as interpreting his inability to secure the same arrangements for his own business as meaning the AWU intended him to be unable to compete — the Cleanevent deal raises the question of anti-competitive and collusive behaviour on the part of the AWU which one would hope is taken up at some later stage by the ACCC and/or other relevant federal government instrumentalities.

But having permitted Cleanevent to have its wage cake and eat it too — including during Shorten’s watch — it appears that the AWU eventually fixed a price to its complicity in selling out the entitlements of workers that it viciously purported to be the custodian of, with The Australian noting that it was revealed in testimony to the Heydon inquiry that Cleanevent was eventually required to pay the AWU $25,000 per year in return for the continuation of the enterprise agreement and for the union committing to undertake no industrial action against the company.

If that sounds like blackmail and/or extortion to readers on the face of it, I assure them I concur with their perception.

To add fuel to a fire that will clearly continue to burn for some time now its architecture is being oxygenated in public and before a Royal Commission, The Australian‘s article details at least one competitor to Cleanevent — established by a former employee of that company — who approached the AWU in an endeavour to extract a comparable arrangement for his own workforce, and after a period of stonewalling, obfuscation and delaying tactics, that particular endeavour was refused.

The competitor’s business went belly-up. It is reasonable to suspect that where there was one such inconsistency in the AWU’s conduct — or, indeed, in yet-to-be-revealed deals struck by other unions — there must be others as well.

But a logical reading of the fact this type of arrangement existed at all can only lead to the conclusion that similarly, where there is one, there are others; and whilst it remains to be seen whether the AWU — or any other union — was party to other agreements involving the unionised workforces of other companies that cannibalised statutory employee entitlements in exchange for “payments” to those unions, this particular set of arrangements (involving at one point Shorten, now “leader” of the ALP, as it does) raises some disturbing and salient questions that judged against the public behaviour of the union movement are impossible to justify.

In no particular order:

  • On what basis did the AWU believe it had the right to enter into an industrial agreement with any company that stripped casual workers of remunerative entitlements contained in union-backed, legally binding awards;
  • Did either AWU, Bill Shorten or the union movement generally believe it or they had the right to arbitrarily determine which businesses succeeded or failed through the exercise of control over their labour costs and if they did, what was the basis for such a belief?
  • Did the AWU, Bill Shorten or the union movement generally believe the practice of accepting “payments” in return for declining to take industrial action against companies was acceptable and again, if so, what was the basis for such a belief?
  • Did the AWU, Bill Shorten or the union movement generally believe themselves to be exempt from those provisions of Trade Practices law governing anti-competitive, collusive and/or cartel behaviour?
  • On what basis did the AWU and/or Bill Shorten believe it acceptable, in 2006 and 2010, to renew an enterprise agreement that stripped penalty rates from casual employees at a time the union movement generally was running a high-profile media campaign against the legislation of a Liberal government that provided, in part, for any worker to strike a similar deal by consent with their own employer?
  • On what basis does Bill Shorten reconcile his present position — and that of the ALP under his “leadership” — of refusing to allow any discussion of penalty rate flexibility whatsoever when his own union presided over their complete abolition in at least one workplace, including during the period of his own stewardship of that union?
  • What point does Bill Shorten ascribe to the continuation of the award regime as a tool for wage-setting when the actions of his own union, including the period in which he was in charge of it, allowed award-busting agreements like the one struck with Cleanevent to be struck?
  • In view of all of these questions (and notwithstanding other aggravating factors in the behaviour of unions, including the AWU, that may yet come to public attention), why are Bill Shorten, the ALP and the union movement bitterly and implacably opposed to any reforms to introduce genuine labour market flexibility at a time of rising unemployment, stagnating economic conditions and tepid wage growth?

If I was running a cafe or restaurant and being legally forced to cough up $60 to $80 per hour to pay staff on a Sunday, I’d be very angry today: Shorten, the ALP and the union movement are the three impediments to getting ridiculous wage imposts on such businesses ameliorated, and enabling those businesses to hire more people, and it seems that for all the lofty rhetoric about “fairness” and making sure workers aren’t ripped off, those “principles” are elastic, expedient, and able to be sacrificed in the interests of union dominance and the advancement of its preferred cronies and allies.

I reiterate that where one of these grubby arrangements is to be found, it stands to reason that there must be others: and in that vein, unions and the people in charge of them are guilty of a massive lie to the Australian public in the dishonest and disingenuous scare campaign they waged against the Howard government’s WorkChoices laws a decade ago.

It says something about the utterly contemptible nature of the ALP and the union movement that even now, they are gearing up to attempt to fight a fourth consecutive federal election on a WorkChoices-based scare when all along, deals that achieved precisely what they wanted to frighten people about over WorkChoices were being struck by those posturing as the protectors of the rights EBAs like the Cleanevent one summarily dispensed with.

And it goes so far as to raise the question of whether the 2007 federal election was rigged: certainly, in the absence of the WorkChoices scare campaign, Labor would have been unlikely to win, and whilst it is always difficult to substantiate the validity of judgements made with the benefit of hindsight, the fact remains that even with WorkChoices in operation, Labor under Kim Beazley struggled to lay a glove on both Howard and his industrial legislation.

Yet at the minimum, and moving forward, this episode should destroy forever Labor’s ability to run scare campaigns around supposed plots by conservative governments to “slash” the wages of employees through labour market reform: as of yesterday, with the emergence of hard detail of the Cleanevent EBA, the ALP no longer has a leg to stand on.

But forgetting about the Royal Commission for a moment and looking at these matters through a purely political prism, Shorten’s viability as a “leader” of any description whatsoever has taken yet another blow as a result of all of this: and if his tenure at the helm of the ALP wasn’t fatally compromised before this week, it surely must be now.

After all, Shorten had the opportunity to stamp out the abrogation of penalty rates when he was running the AWU that he now says he would never allow to occur and never would. He failed to do so. That nobody can believe anything Shorten has to say is now indisputable, and so the sooner Labor dispenses with his highly dubious services, the better off it will be.