Unions: ALP Just A Cat’s Paw For Criminal Thugs

AS the Turnbull government proceeds with bills to restore the Australian Building and Construction Commission and enact Registered Organisations laws to force unions to higher standards of governance, Labor is consumed by incandescent rage opposing them. Populated by those who excuse criminal acts and the lawlessness exposed by a Royal Commission, the “modern” ALP is a cat’s paw for thugs masquerading as a pretender to govern.

The unions — now covering just 15% of the adult Australian workforce, a figure that falls to single digits if applied purely to private enterprise, and even then bloated by virtual closed shops in some industries — are, today, little more than a fringe group.

Yet that fringe group can and does wield far more influence and power than its representation entitles it to; senior union figures sit on the boards of major Australian companies; anyone whose superannuation savings (inadvisedly) sit in an industry fund are channelling money into unions’ and union officials’ coffers; and whenever an elected conservative government even considers doing something the unions disapprove of, their minions bring whole cities to a standstill until brute force and bully tactics force a backdown.

Readers know I am no friend to the union movement, and the sort of lawless behaviour uncovered at Dyson Heydon’s Royal Commission provides some inkling as to why; if an employer (or employer group) attempted half the things that unions have gotten away with in this country for far too long, the unions would see to it that the government of the day — of whatever complexion — shut their businesses down by whatever means legally available to do so.

It takes a certain chutzpah to maintain a position whereby others must be squashed into oblivion at the earliest sign of activity that unions dislike, only to insist that Trades Hall remain unfettered, unregulated and above the law where its own enterprises are concerned: and especially when that freedom is repeatedly abused, the law ignored, and union coffers filled at the expense of both the workers they claim to represent and the wider community they purport to serve.

I’ve been following the goings-on surrounding the Turnbull government’s attempts to pass legislation — already once defeated — to restore the Australian Building and Construction Commission and the accompanying bid to enact Registered Organisations laws that would hold the union movement to the same standards of conduct and governance as the business community, and some additional reading can be found here and here; it seems inevitable the bills will be voted down, which is a shame, for any right-minded person who believes in the rule of law and the principle that it applies equally to everyone has a stake in seeing those bills passed.

Those caveats, clearly, exclude the ALP.

The Labor Party is horribly, horribly conflicted on this issue, even without the government’s bills on the table; millions of dollars flow from unions directly into ALP coffers every year, and its parliamentary ranks (and, notably, a good portion of its MPs’ advisers) are bloated with former union officials as well; its current federal “leader” has been enmeshed with the unions for decades, albeit without the broad respect and community goodwill enjoyed by the Bob Hawkes and Simon Creans of the world; and its official policy on union corruption and criminal misconduct — to the vacuous extent it has one — amounts to little more than a promise to hear no evil and see no evil.

It is in the ALP’s direct interests for the unions to be permitted to do whatever they like, and anyone who believes its mouth-foaming rage against measures to bring the unions into line with reasonable community expectations of decent and lawful behaviour is born from any other “principle” than the need to keep the cash and resources rolling in is delusional.

What makes it worse is that Labor’s charge against the Royal Commission, its findings, and the measures proposed by the Turnbull government in response has been and is being led, in no small part, by its employment spokesman Brendan O’Connor — the brother of notorious CFMEU supremo Michael — and whilst this column does not suggest impropriety on Brendan O’Connor’s part, it merely underlines the point of just how conflicted the ALP really is.

How credible is it to have the brother of the leader of the most lawless union in the country spearheading the attack against measures to bring it to heel?

Labor says bills to reconstitute the ABCC — in its previous incarnation established by the Howard government, and promptly abolished when Labor won office — are “rotten to the core,” and that the ABCC was “hostile” and “coercive” in fulfilling its brief, but of course it would say that: the ABCC existed solely to stamp out the very criminal misadventures the Heydon inquiry found have again flourished in the years since its abolition, and which logic dictates will continue to do so until or unless beefed-up measures to eliminate them are legislated.

O’Connor, for his part, says the mooted laws are “draconian” (and again, he would say that) and claims the Coalition’s intention to restore the ABCC belies a determination “to return to WorkChoices” which is neither true nor a valid conclusion to draw: re-establishing the ABCC was a Coalition policy that was implicitly endorsed at the ballot box in 2013, and in any case, Labor’s true beef with WorkChoices lay in the fact it desperately didn’t want employees to bargain with their bosses directly, as any mass move to such arrangements would render the unions irrelevant to the process (although beyond the handful of industries and silos in which they are dominant, the unions are more or less irrelevant now anyway).

As we discussed on Tuesday in the context of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s threat to call a double dissolution over the bills in question, Labor and the Communist Party Greens (who also take buckets of union cash, and are just as compromised on this as Labor is) are up in arms over the fact the secret sections of Heydon’s report are to be made available for viewing by the crossbench Senators on whom the fate of the legislation rests, whilst the ALP and Greens will not be provided with even redacted access to those volumes.

I reiterate my deep discomfiture with even the crossbenchers being shown the secret portions of the report; Justice Heydon marked them as secret with good reason, detailing as they do the identities of brave whistleblowers and witnesses whose damning inside testimony made the exposure of widespread wrongdoing at the unions that were examined possible in the first place, and the crossbenchers — some of whom exhibit a complete disregard for notions of propriety, discretion, or conduct becoming elected representatives — can hardly be relied upon to maintain the secrecy of those pages.

But by the same token, the only conceivable reason for Labor in particular to want access to them is to obtain the details of those witnesses and pass them to union enforcers for “further action:” and this very real risk — not a fantasy, not a game, and certainly not an unreasonable conclusion to draw based on the violent actions of some of the most militant union thugs — is one no Australian of goodwill would countenance taking, and no elected representative of good conscience would ever capitulate to ambit demands for them to do so.

As I said on Tuesday, the issue of allegedly responsible members of Parliament refusing to enable steps to be taken to stamp out criminal behaviour at Australian unions is the central point here, and Labor’s proposed fig leaf of increased fines for breaches (and no ABCC or regulatory regime) simply lacks all credibility.

Take Brendan O’Connor’s brother’s own union as a case in point: it has in recent years ignored Court directives, repeatedly been found in contempt of Court, and thumbed its nose at judicial attempts to haul it into line on account of its militant, thuggish, and occasionally violent activities. Part of this pattern has been a refusal to pay Court-ordered fines and restitution in the wake of its path of industrial anarchy.

Labor’s “solution” of bigger fines (which CFMEU policy seems to be not to pay anyway) is a joke, a kite of contrivance flown before the public in a blatantly deceptive attempt to con voters to believe the ALP is serious about cleaning up the rotten union edifice.

And here’s the rub.

The unions virtually own the ALP; I’m not talking about the historical construct that the Labor Party is the political arm of the union movement, but rather a takeover of one by the other. Labor’s people, to a large and increasing degree, come from unions. Labor money, increasingly, comes from unions. Labor MPs, mostly, do not get preselected in the first place without the explicit imprimatur of the unions. And Labor’s agenda, increasingly, is the agenda of the unions, not one that has any relevance whatsoever in the lives of the great majority of Australians who have no truck with the union movement, for it is an agenda that has little to offer anyone who truly wants to get ahead and improve their lot in life.

To use the vernacular, the unions have got the Labor Party by the balls.

Anyone who wants to see the unions cleaned up and refocused on doing what it says they do on the packet is not going to see any attempt from a Labor government — ever — to clean out the stinking pustules and corrupt filth that have tarnished the image of the wider union movement and contributed to the ongoing rejection of union membership by the overwhelming majority of the Australian public.

Stories of what the unions might have achieved and delivered in years past are irrelevant, for that was then, and this is now; and right now, it is the union movement that is “rotten to the core” — not the measures being pursued by the federal government to weed out the toxic miscreants in their midst.

If the government’s laws are voted down in the Senate, this column reiterates its support for the calling of an immediate dissolution of both Houses of Parliament, and in an election fought over union corruption and criminal behaviour, I think Labor would be in line for a nasty shock when the votes at such an election were tallied.

Right now, by its words and actions, and on account of its iron-clad determination to do everything it possibly can to ensure the legislation before Parliament is defeated — an undertaking likely to succeed, thanks to some of the unprincipled wreckers sitting on the crossbench, who merely seek to damage and/or destroy the Liberal Party (and yes, Jacqui Lambie, I’m looking at you, you toad) — the ALP, whether it comprehends it or not, has shown its hand to the Australian public.

And that, very simply, betrays an ugly picture indeed; “modern” Labor has reduced itself to being an apologist for illegal actions, a cheer squad for the continuation of lawless industrial outrages in perpetuity, and nothing more than a cat’s paw for criminal thugs whose only priority — despite claiming to exist and operate for the betterment of their members — is to advance their own fortunes and interests by literally any means conceivable.

Yet the ALP has the nerve to masquerade as a pretender to govern Australia — a privilege utterly at odds with its determination to shield the crooks it is beholden to from the law at any cost — and with a “leader” so deeply entrenched in the union movement as Bill Shorten is and the signposts of CFMEU control over the Labor Party lying everywhere you look it seems, the charade of Labor’s suitability to hold office in this country is one that should simply be ignored.

An almighty brawl over these laws is likely to end with an election. Its outcome is almost certain to be much different to what the union movement expects.

 

Turnbull Double Dissolution Threat: Bring It On

REPORTS that Malcolm Turnbull has threatened a double dissolution if bills to restore the Australian Building and Construction Commission and stymie lawless unions are defeated is welcome; there is no justifiable rationale for unions to be exempt from standards enforced upon the business sector. If the Senate refuses to pass enabling legislation yet again this month, elections for both Houses of Parliament are the only appropriate response.

The Murdoch titles are carrying a story this morning that details a threat by the Turnbull government to call elections for both Houses of Parliament, if legislation to restore the Australian Building and Construction Commission and accompanying Registered Organisations laws — already voted down by the Senate — are again defeated when they are reintroduced to federal Parliament this month; this column not only approves, but encourages the Prime Minister to take such a step in the best interests of restoring responsible government in Australia.

I’m not going to speak at great length on this today, for so much of the ground where union thuggery and bastardry, the culture of lawlessness and entitlement revealed by the Heydon Royal Commission at certain unions, and the plethora of accusations that that inquiry was a witch hunt has already been well and truly covered.

The two key issues here are the refusal of supposedly responsible members of Parliament to take steps to stamp out criminal behaviour on the one hand; and the entrenched dysfunction of an elected government, serially and systematically frustrated by a deeply hostile Senate, on the other.

The reasons for the ALP (and the Communist Party Greens) for frustrating attempts to clean up the union movement are obvious enough; Trades Hall not only pours millions of dollars into these parties every year — and the Greens are on that particular gravy train, much to Labor’s chagrin — but is increasingly the main source of candidates, training and extra-parliamentary resources for a party that has correspondingly declined into a shell of its once-proud past, and which is dependent on union money to even continue to exist.

The reasons for crossbench obfuscation are less clear-cut, albeit nonetheless partisan; as the Daily Telegraph notes, Jacqui Lambie and Glenn Lazarus — elected to the Senate on Clive Palmer’s ticket, which time has shown had no real objective beyond trying to destroy the Coalition if it won office — are simply doing what was printed on the packet they came in, although in Lambie’s case, her wont to make everything and anything conditional on ridiculous demands merely underlines the point.

Yet in any case, Senators Lambie, Lazarus, Palmer stooge Ricky Muir and DLP traitor John Madigan have all confirmed they will vote the bills down: and that’s enough, in cohort with Labor and the Greens, to ensure they are defeated.

I think it’s entirely reasonable for the government to refuse to allow the ALP and the Greens, who both benefit financially the union movement, to peruse the secret sections of Heydon’s final report containing identifying information of witnesses who were instrumental in enabling the Commission to uncover the pattern of wrongdoing at certain unions that it did; to me, the only possible reason the ALP in particular could have in seeking access to those sections is to pass the identities of witnesses along to union enforcers for “further action” — something that obviously ought to be avoided at all costs.

To be frank, hearing on Melbourne radio station 3AW yesterday that the crossbench Senators would gain access to the secret portions of the report — unredacted — was a cause for alarm: the idea that all six of them could resist being “leaned on” by ALP or union heavies to reveal the contents is one leap of faith too far.

And remember, some of the unions adversely named in the report have a long history of wanton violence when it comes to doing “business.”

The justifications and excuses offered up by both the ALP and its masters at Trades Hall for ignoring the Heydon inquiry’s findings simply do not cut any ice; significant evidence of widespread wrongdoing was uncovered, and a string of consequent prosecutions that will grow longer in coming months is already well and truly under way.

Dyson Heydon’s inquiry looked at only six unions out of scores of them by virtue of its terms of reference. It is implausible at best and inconceivable at worst that the same disregard for the law and entitled mentality as has been shown at those six are not present, to varying degrees, at the rest.

Since when has it been an ideological sycophancy to insist all people and organisations in this country obey the law? At root, this is effectively what those who oppose the unions being held to account and subjected to rigorous scrutiny in future are suggesting. And those Senators who vote these bills down again are, in practical effect, sanctioning and encouraging lawless behaviour.

It isn’t on, and — not least because all of this was a Liberal Party election commitment in 2013, and thus mandated — if the laws aren’t passed this time, Malcolm Turnbull is well within his rights to use that rejection as a trigger to seek and obtain a dissolution of Parliament.

But there’s another issue here: a virtual deadlock between the Houses of Parliament.

Some on the Left will object to me describing it as such, but the only way to get legislation through the current Senate is to agree to amendments that so mangle and bastardise bills as to render them unrecognisable; the Abbott government learned this the hard way when it foolishly opted to deal with Clive Palmer, and saw bills that were supposed to realise savings to the budget passed in such form as to actually compound the revenue shortfall bequeathed to it by Labor.

Some on all sides are being honest about it and some are still parking their heads up their backsides to evade the admission, but there is a budget and debt crisis in this country that will, if left unchecked, seriously diminish living standards as soon as next decade, and lead to permanent and significant hikes in overall taxation just to pay for the damage of the past ten years: the extra monies collected won’t go to trendy social spending measures, or to pay for new infrastructure; they will be rigidly earmarked to pay the price for allowing the federal budget to descend into a structural abyss.

The Coalition has at least tried — even if, under Abbott, its methods and targets were utterly misdirected — to fix this problem.

Yet once again, the Senate — perhaps the most hostile Senate ever faced by an elected government, and I say that knowing that some will mutter “1975” under their breath as I do — has obscenely passed bills that increase spending on individual items but steadfastly refused to pass anything that cuts it to push the overall budget back toward the black.

I have long believed that governments should be entitled to govern; just as I have long believed that the Senate — far from delusionally naive conceptions of it as a “States’ House” or as a “House of Review” — has been so distorted by successive attempts by Labor governments in 1948 and 1984 to rig it against the conservative parties that it barely serves any useful function at all any more.

If there is to be an upper house, there must also be the prospect that in the normal course of events, a government can generally be entitled to expect to be able to govern. I don’t think it’s extreme to say that when all is said and done, this is no longer the case.

A Senate controlled by Labor and the Greens that becomes “functional” when those parties hold power, but reverts to dysfunctionality and chaos when they do not, does not retain any democratic integrity or value; yet this is exactly the intended end destination of the 1984 Hawke government reforms, which enlarged the Senate and introduced group voting tickets for the first time.

Perversely, those laws were passed with National Party support — a folly the country will forever rue until or unless the means to abolish them is identified, and used.

I’m aware that opinion polls at the moment are showing that voters are opposed to an early election. They always are. But if an election date for, say, April is announced, those objections are likely to evaporate as the question — as Bob Menzies said in 1963 — becomes one of who is to serve in government for three years, and not whether the choice should have been postponed for a few months.

And just as the Turnbull government may not improve its own Senate position at a double dissolution (which I don’t believe for an instant) there is just as much chance that it will; but either way (and ominously for the crossbench Senators) NSW Liberal Democratic Senator David Leyonhjelm hit the nail on the head with deadly precision when he noted that even if the government ended up with the same number of crossbenchers after a full Senate election, all the current ones would likely be swept away.

And the risk of not increasing the Coalition Senate tally is distinctly tempered by the prospect that a new batch of crossbenchers just might be more reasonable than the trenchantly anti-Coalition forces currently squatting in the unrepresentative upper house.

One of them got 1500 votes out of almost four million in Victoria, for crying out loud, and goes out of his way to vote down government bills at every opportunity. Enough said.

Irrespective of the bleating and excuses emanating from the conflicted ALP and Greens who are money-bound to excuse illegal union actions, there is neither the justification nor any acceptable rationale for permitting the union movement in this country to evade proper regulation and disclosure provisions of the kind that apply to business.

There is absolutely no acceptable reason for militant and often violent unions to control the economically critical building and construction sector, often flouting the law at will, disregarding any attempt to bring the miscreants in their midst to justice, and costing the country billions of dollars each year through inefficient and featherbedded industrial practices that sit counter to both the letter and the spirit of various laws — as Heydon has also demonstrated.

Should the Senate now move to vote down one final attempt to restore the ABCC and to torpedo the Registered Organisations bills — providing the government with new triggers to call a double dissolution — capitulation, and abandoning these worthy measures in the face of sabotage by apologists for criminal anarchy, cannot and must not be an option.

In response to the expected show of belligerent defiance over these matters by the Senate, the only appropriate course for the Turnbull government to take in those circumstances would be to advise a dissolution of both Hoses of Parliament ahead of elections for both.

This column endorses and supports any move by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to seek a double dissolution and to fight it on the issues of union lawlessness and criminality.

We will put it succinctly: bring it on.

 

Shorten’s “Year Of Ideas” Gives Way To A Barrage Of Bullshit

AFTER Bill Shorten’s much-hyped “year of ideas” that yielded only promises of new and/or increased tax slugs, Labor’s “leader” is to make attack his best defence; on track for an electoral belting after two years offering less leadership than a true leader’s bootlace, Shorten will embark on a field trip across Australia to try to bamboozle voters with a barrage of bullshit. Sensible folk have not embraced Shorten. This new charade will not alter that.

I have been perusing the morning’s news and noticed a number of reports about a curious new enterprise being attributed to opposition “leader” Bill Shorten, and wanted to make some comment on what can only be described as the desperate last stand of a man — and his party — that exudes all the characteristics of a hunted and beaten quarry.

The Murdoch press is reporting that Shorten will today commence a national three-week tour — see here and here — with the apparent objective of whipping up as much fear and hysteria as he can muster around a series of vapid scare campaigns that have failed to bite so far, and will probably fail again now.

Rumoured to have been slated for replacement by the ruthless ALP/union machine until the running saga of Federal Police investigations into Special Minister of State Mal Brough resurfaced late last year, it’s fairly obvious that having failed to produce any new (or, indeed, exciting) policy from a “year of ideas,” the desperate Shorten is now reduced to firing the last shot in his locker: a hysterical (and baseless) attempt to intimidate voters into deserting the Turnbull government on the strength of wild fairy stories.

Let’s be blunt: Labor (and Shorten) start 2016 in a position from which electoral defeat is not only a virtual certainty — especially if Malcolm Turnbull hurries up and gets…himself…to Yarralumla to announce an election date quickly — but from which losing significant ground based on the 2013 landslide is a now very real prospect; with the PM Labor and Shorten demonised, crucified, and drove from office now gone, Labor’s electoral fortunes dissolved the day Tony Abbott vacated the Prime Ministerial suite.

Just as it is in the Liberal Party’s best interests for Shorten to remain right where he is (and, conversely, in Labor’s to get rid of him, pronto) it was in Labor’s very best interests for Abbott to lead the government to another election. There are many in the ALP who now rue the vicious crusade they ran against the former Liberal leader.

Simply stated, Labor’s only genuine path to victory depended on Tony Abbott (and Peta Credlin) continuing to preside over the mess the Abbott government became.

Labor’s bright, brilliant new ideas of 2015 weren’t that bright, they weren’t that new, and in any case there weren’t that many of them at all.

Parties of the Centre-Left worldwide have been railing against multinationals who “do not pay their fair share” over the past few years; most recently, this mantra formed a substantial portion of British Labour’s pitch in May last year, which ended in disaster.

No party and no government in any Western democratic country has “solved” the problem of “multinational tax evasion,” whereby these companies will supposedly pay “a fair share” of tax on income generated locally.

And why? Because the finer points of this populist nonsense dictates that any significant tax take would be far outweighed by the loss of jobs as the miscreant companies scale back (or close) local operations, with knock-on effects of declining government revenues, increased welfare spending, and an international reputation as a place to do business that would suffer badly.

Labor will campaign on this rubbish, but if ever elected will do little or nothing to realise it.

Beyond that, and with one exception, Labor’s “new” ideas are nothing more than a grab bag of taxes: not one carbon tax, but two; a rise in cigarette taxes that will hurt its own supporters more than anyone, and which really beggars belief; a ridiculous 50% renewable energy target that, if realised, would cause utility bills for householders and businesses to rocket to the point they could cause not just a recession but a permanent economic slump, as inefficient, expensive and subsidy-dependent renewables price ordinary people out of electricity and gas markets; Labor has signalled it may drastically hike the Medicare levy “to pay for health services” which not only fails to address issues of wastage and inefficiency in health service delivery, but would have to lift the levy to somewhere approaching 10% to redress the budget deficit; and it wants to tax self-funded retirees (on the basis they’re “rich”) to the point many will need to start drawing a pension — compounding the government’s fraught financial position even further.

The exception to all of these taxes I’ve alluded to (and more the ALP has up its sleeve besides) was the nugget Shorten let slip soon after becoming Labor “leader,” which he has not since dared utter again: the abolition of the Private Health Insurance Rebate, which would cause public hospitals to be completely overrun, and effecting the collapse of healthcare in Australia.

For a “year of ideas,” Shorten’s template is contemptible, to say the least.

But now he wants to run around the country, using fear as the motive to get people to vote for him; ask any good manager of people what the worst “motivator” for use on staff is, and all of them will nominate fear: if you have to frighten your staff to get them to do something, you’re not a “manager” at all. It’s the same with politics (and yes, I know fear campaigns have worked before…)

Yet Shorten wants to ram home his story that Turnbull, if re-elected, will put a “15% GST on everything,” a tale as deliberately misleading as it is untrue: any GST change would see the rate increased by five percentage points, and would not “add 15% to everything;” to the extent the GST base might be broadened Turnbull hasn’t announced anything, and were he to make such a change after an election without spelling it out beforehand, the Coalition in 2019 would be likely to pay the same price as the Howard government did in 2007 over WorkChoices.

So hellbent on shoving his GST story down the throats of voters is Shorten that he last week publicly abused one of Labor’s state leaders — NSW’s Luke Foley — because the latter dared to suggest he might be prepared to support a GST rise; to date, South Australian (Labor) Premier Jay Weatherill has also claimed GST reform is common sense, and offers a sustainable path to repairing government finances, whilst Victorian (Labor) Premier Daniel Andrews (in a rare outburst of common sense) is on record as saying he would support such a position if consensus among the other states emerged despite not personally favouring it.

And Shorten will have no mention made of the other things, aside from health and education funding, a GST increase would be guaranteed to pay for: income tax cuts and increases to pensions and other relief for the low-paid. These trade-offs, for putting government revenue onto a more sustainable footing by switching the focus of taxation away from income and onto expenditure, destroy Shorten’s case, so the fact he is shouting down dissent in his own ranks and insisting any increase would be bigger than it is is hardly a surprise.

Speaking of WorkChoices, penalty rates are the other agenda item Shorten has elected to “talk about” on his barnstorming cross-country stampede; now heading into the fourth consecutive election campaign at which Labor has chosen to fight on the spectre of WorkChoices, it’s debatable as to whether this tired old ruse frightens anyone at all any more.

Yes, WorkChoices won for Labor in 2007. Since then, its electoral scorecard is a technical loss (2010) and a landslide defeat in 2013. Significantly, the Coalition in office has made no attempt to reintroduce WorkChoices — a fact any intelligent voter will comprehend — but more to the point, it knows it must be upfront before an election about any industrial changes it makes.

Forgetting the self-interested babble of the unions and the ALP: restoring some of the labour market flexibility of the WorkChoices reforms is economically critical; for now, the debate is centred only on the size of penalty rates being paid to workers in retail and hospitality jobs on Sundays, and even then, on simply bringing them into line with Saturday penalty rates. It is difficult to see what Shorten might convince people of by going on a nationwide tour selling snake oil. But predictions of the sky falling in are likely to be given short shrift.

In one sense, you have to feel a little sorry for Shorten.

After all, he spent so much time and effort misrepresenting what the Abbott government tried to do (a venture, just to be clear, that received an enormous amount of assistance from the Abbott government itself on account of its inability to articulate or sell anything) and built what many believed was an unassailable election-winning position, only to see it disappear when the Liberals dispatched Abbott, as the Royal Commission into the unions began to parade acres of filthy laundry before the eyes of the watching electorate, and on account of his own severe limitations and (many) personal inadequacies as a “leader.”

Some might even think he’s been robbed of what he believes is his destiny: after all, it’s common knowledge at both the ALP and the unions that Shorten thinks he’s destined to be Prime Minister of this country.

The reality is more mundane.

No more than a discredited and narcissistic hack, the image Shorten has conveyed (directly and indirectly) to voters is that he is an opportunist who will say or do literally anything to acquire power and retain it. All politicians are ambitious, but the balder the ambition, the more off-putting it is. Kevin Rudd would have the franchise on that point.

But whichever way you cut it, Shorten and his “destiny” — and his moribund “leadership” — are unlikely to be saved by the latest half-arsed stunt he’s spent his summer break dreaming up.

Even when Labor was riding high in opinion polls with Abbott as Prime Minister, Shorten’s personal appeal — as a “leader” and as a potential Prime Minister — was less than impressive, to say the least. And whilst he may have led Abbott some of the time on the “preferred PM” measure, it was never by all that much.

Nobody with a brain has warmed to Shorten on the strength of his “ideas,” his big plans to tax hell out of everyone earning more than the average wage, or the puerile soundbites he delivers with painfully frequency that don’t even sound as if he believes what he is saying, let alone anyone who might be listening.

To date, his efforts on the GST and on penalty rates have failed to make any headway against an ascendant new Prime Minister, and even the Brough scandal and more recent incidents involving Coalition frontbenchers Peter Dutton and Jamie Briggs appear bereft of votes for Labor if early indications prove reliable.

But it matters not to Shorten, for the one (and perhaps only) thing he is arrogantly convinced of is his “destiny” to be Prime Minister; ideas and arguments and debate — and plenty of poor publicity emanating from his own side of the political fence — have only shifted that objective further and further from his grasp.

The proper way of going about it hasn’t worked and now, quite unapologetically, Shorten is going to try to bamboozle voters with a barrage of bullshit to force them to his will.

People haven’t embraced Shorten to this point, and armed with nothing more than a scare to sell, they won’t embrace him now.

 

All Guns Dribbling: Union, ALP TURC Defence Is Retarded Logic

THE HALF-ARSED defence against findings by the Royal Commission into unions is specious, dishonest, sanctions criminality, and relies on the logic of a retard; not content to rail against revelations of lawlessness perpetuated by grubs in their midst, Labor and Trades Hall are peddling a case that amounts to a plea for public excusal of illegal acts. It must be punished by the abandonment of unions, and by retribution against Labor at the ballot box.

There is no need to apologise for the allusion to the disabled in today’s article, for not even a mental cripple or a dribbling geriatric could fail to have their intelligence insulted by the despicable blather the Labor Party and the unions have spent the past three days saturating the airwaves with.

As a defence against the findings and recommendations from the Heydon inquiry into union corruption and unlawful conduct it is reprehensible: dishonest, predicated almost exclusively on false premises and utterly free of any assumption of responsibility or tinge of remorse, what has poured forth from Trades Hall and its lackeys at the ALP is tantamount to the explicit sanctioning of the alleged criminal behaviour that has been uncovered, and represents a plea to the court of public opinion to simply turn a blind eye to the lawlessness that the unions have been found to have engaged in.

I listened to ACTU secretary Dave Oliver ranting and carrying on about the TURC report on ABC radio on Wednesday, as I was out and about, and the few days since then have shown that far from some considered personal response to the Commission in his official capacity, the downright contemptible diatribe Oliver was engaged in was actually part of a considered, systemic and uniform “defence” that has since been regurgitated by almost every union and ALP figure to have commented publicly on the findings of that report.

So my remarks aren’t specifically aimed at Oliver — someone I once thought was a reasonable individual, despite his deep enmeshment with the union movement, although I long ago ceased to hold that opinion — but at all of his maaates at Labor and Trades Hall who are all singing from the same cracked record as he has been.

The Royal Commission into suspected criminal misconduct and corruption at six unions — along with the reintroduction of the Australian Building and Construction Commission, and Registered Organisations legislation that would force union officials to be subjected to the same standards of governance and accountability as company directors — were election commitments taken to the people by the Liberal Party prior to the 2013 federal election, and endorsed overwhelmingly by voters at that election.

For a party that has made as much noise over the past two years about “broken” promises — often baselessly — one would have thought the Labor Party would have been delighted to see all three commitments followed through by the Abbott government, and subsequently under Malcolm Turnbull.

But as we know, in the eyes of Labor and the unions, the Heydon inquiry was “a politically motivated witch hunt,” to which I can only offer the stock response that for witch hunts to take place it is necessary for there to be witches to hunt in the first place.

There is no limit to the aspersions and slurs these people will cast around in their desperate and amoral quest to wriggle out of the dire legal predicament their own actions, and those of the people recommended for prosecution by Heydon, have landed them in.

Just yesterday, a vocal and well-connected Labor operative told me — partly as a personal insult and partly as a barb aimed at anyone not in the Trades Hall bunker and filled with rage — that “Torys” (sic) had proven themselves soft on child sex abuse, for their “partisan, politically motivated witch hunt” had diverted government money away from another Royal Commission into child sex abuse by the church, and when I clarified that he had accused Liberal Party people of showing leniency toward paedophiles because they had called a Royal Commission into his beloved union movement, he told me that as far as he was concerned he was “unapologetic” and that “Torys” “should be condemned in every manner possible.”

This classy piece of work is employed by a senior ALP MP and the remarks were made in a semi-public forum. It’s as bad as that.

Yet the defence to date — from all the various heads of the union hydra — boils down to a handful of points, all of which are heavily misleading, some plain wrong, but all aimed at winning public sympathy for a movement and the institutions within it that are rotten to the core.

Royal Commissioner Dyson Heydon wrote in his final report that “it would be utterly naive to think that what has been uncovered is anything other than the small tip of a very big iceberg.” “Where is the iceberg?” screams the union/ALP crowd. “Where?”

The iceberg, of course, is the union movement: for a “politically motivated witch hunt,” Heydon’s inquiry examined just six unions. Of the material collected from witnesses, much was found to have been knowingly false when it was given. On the balance of probabilities, it stands to reason that every other union in this country, to some extent or other, is riven by the same corrupt and illegal behaviour as the six examined by Heydon. A truly politically motivated inquiry would have investigated every last one of them. This didn’t.

Heydon made 79 recommendations, 37 of which involved referring individuals to law enforcement agencies for prosecution of alleged criminal offences. The ALP/union junta were ready for this too. “The Royal Commission found just a handful — just a handful — of people doing the wrong thing,” they screech, replete with accusations that any comparable investigation of any other section of society (Oliver nominated the banking sector and the judiciary) would be “lucky” to find so proportionately few miscreants in their ranks.

It misses the point: “every other section of society” generally involves industries that are subjected to the oversight of some regulatory authority in addition to the common law; the unions, by contrast, are subject to no such oversight.

This doesn’t bother these bozos, all of whom talk of some kind of investigation into “the Liberal Party’s corporate and business base,” and the more partisan among them absurdly call for a Royal Commission into the business community. Those among them who claim they’re happy for a regulatory authority to be set up to monitor unions add, without fail, the rider that their support is conditional on its oversight extending to companies as well.

But the corporate sector already has such a body to enforce governance and conduct investigations of suspected or alleged breaches — it’s called the Australian Securities and Investments Commission — and in fact, it has two: for the Australian Tax Office is largely irrelevant at Trades Hall, whose constituent unions enjoy the privilege of not-for-profit status and are thus exempt, wrongly in my view, from paying company tax.

So let’s hear no more of the hard done-by unions who might actually be forced to clean up their act after all of this.

These people can’t even be honest about the amount of money that was spent; yes, it was originally estimated to cost $80 million. But figures released by the Department of the Attorney-General last month showed the final cost to have been $49.9m, down from a revised estimate of $53.3m at the time of last May’s federal budget.

Oliver claimed it was $80 million that could be spent on “something else:” but he would say that, and so would every other noisy ALP or union hack with a vested interest in stopping either themselves or their maaates from having the book thrown at them. In their view, you could piss the $80 million up against a post, for all they care; so long as their unions and the thugs who run them and work in them remain free to operate as laws unto themselves, that is the only thing that matters.

For people who claim to represent the very best interests of working people and who claim to richly deserve the position of trust this entails — and which so clearly has been consistently and rigorously abused — such a proposition deserves contempt, not sympathy and/or public support.

The Turnbull government will make a final attempt early in the new Parliamentary year to have the legislation to restore the ABCC and the Registered Organisations bill passed, but it has been made quite clear — by Turnbull himself, no less — that if the measures are again blocked in the Senate, the government is prepared to fight an election over the issue.

I think it should. It is an election issue that will play overwhelmingly in the Coalition’s favour.

Labor “leader” Bill Shorten — cleared at the Commission — claims to welcome the prospect of an election fight over this issue, making it known via Twitter that Labor had fought on WorkChoices before and won, and would do so again.

But this isn’t WorkChoices, and the same floating voters who came down on Labor’s side when WorkChoices was a live issue are likely to be repulsed and disgusted by the findings of the Heydon Commission, and vote accordingly.

In any case, this year’s election will be the fourth consecutive election Labor has fought on WorkChoices. It might be time to find a new scare campaign after ten years singing from the same song sheet.

I should note that Shorten didn’t even have the decency to interrupt his holiday to make a public statement on an issue so obviously of great importance to his party and to the labour movement he hails from; if he thinks anyone is impressed by the contempt he has shown the Royal Commission by his failure to be seen in public over the issue, he is likely to be disappointed. Shorten may have no case to answer personally, but by failing to even hold a press conference, the inevitable conclusion to draw is that he’s hiding: and that will bring suspicion and distrust, not admiration.

And Shorten’s idea of a “Labor solution” to the matters uncovered at TURC — woefully inadequate in curbing union excesses, as I’m sure they’re intended to be — actually makes the truly obscene attempt to turn a situation that ought to have the ALP and the unions with their tail between their legs into one that permanently disadvantages the Coalition financially and politically. What a sham.

Where is the contrition? Where is the remorse? Where is the shame? There is none, because Labor and the unions have none.

Everyone with a vested interest — at the ALP from Shorten down, at Trades Hall, or in the Labor-friendly press — dutifully babbles that they have “zero tolerance” of corrupt and criminal behaviour, but if you ask any of them whether the union figures referred to law enforcement agencies by Heydon should be prosecuted, none will answer the question directly. It is an evasion as telling as it is misleading.

And some people who really should know better — like Labor’s Workplace Relations spokesman Brendan O’Connor, brother of senior CFMEU official Michael — have chosen to make publicly abusive statements that would pass for comedy pieces were they not so serious: likening the final report of a Royal Commission to “something written by a B-grade sub-editor of a sleazy tabloid” not only shows a cavalier disregard for the gravity of the alleged criminal behaviour the Commission uncovered, but is also tantamount to thumbing his nose at the decent workers who pay their union dues and who have every right to feel aggrieved by what has been revealed.

As they always do, Labor and the unions are pandering to the extremely gullible and the extremely stupid with their attempt to discredit the Royal Commission’s findings; it speaks volumes of what these organisations truly think of the people they expect to support them, but thinking people will not be duped by the raw and obscene degree of self-interest and butt-covering currently on show.

Some in the ALP get it; just this week, former Prime Minister Bob Hawke — himself an ex-union leader, in the days people could respect unions even if they didn’t agree with them — has called for a reassessment of the ALP’s relationship with Trades Hall, including the de-affiliation and deregistration of the violent, lawless CFMEU.

There are more, like Hawke, who recognise the toxic commodity the unions in their current incarnation represent, and who similarly seek an overhaul of both the union movement and Labor’s ties to it.

Others — like Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews — are making token gestures; in Andrews’ case, this has meant placing distance between himself, his government and disgraced upper house Labor MP Cesar Melhem, who now faces prosecution over alleged offences committed during his tenure at the helm of the AWU in Victoria. But on the issue of the CFMEU, whose money and muscle were largely responsible for delivering Labor government in 2014, Andrews is completely mute.

But for the most part, everything that has emanated from Labor and the unions has been fashioned on an all too familiar template: obfuscate, stonewall, admit nothing, and turn defence into attack: even to go so far as to throw baseless abuse and smears of their own around, safe in the knowledge that if anyone is damaged or aggrieved by the utter bullshit that can be the only viable defence against institutionalised lawlessness and wrongdoing, they personally couldn’t care less because their enemies are not their maaates.

And almost all of these people have failed to grasp the opportunity this Royal Commission offered: had they co-operated, and volunteered the details of the criminal misbehaviour being investigated, they could have emerged squeaky clean and with a solidly credible story to tell current and potential new members. Instead, the union movement will remain heavily tarnished in the public eye no matter how many of the recommended prosecutions succeed. From this point onward, there will always be lingering doubts as to just how “clean” the rest of the unions really are.

Nobody who has pursued the union movement sanctions criminal activity in any section of Australian society, and that includes the business community that seems to be a whipping horse over at Trades Hall this week.

But none of the players in the ALP/union stable have covered themselves with any more glory than the filthy specimens Heydon has dragged out into the sunlight. Those who pay their union dues every month would be well advised to reconsider the relationship, and those (few) voters inclined to support Shorten would be better served by an informal vote than a Labor government at this time.

In the end, Labor and its masters at Trades Hall are banking on the cretinism and stupidity of the voting public to extract a national excusal of illegal behaviour. The only mental retardation in this equation lies within those making that case, not the voters it is intended to hoodwink.

The government’s measures to subject the union movement to proper regulatory oversight are moderate, reasonable, and long overdue. If it takes a double dissolution election over the issue to secure them — at the likely cost of a heavy and deserved defeat of the ALP in so doing — then the price is well worth paying.

 

Turnbull Must Ignore Pathetic Shorten Attempt To Evade TURC Fallout

THE PENDING release of the Trade Union Royal Commission’s final report has spawned a last-gasp attempt by ALP “leader” Bill Shorten to propose measures to limit the political fallout of the inquiry for Labor; after two years of stonewalling, insisting there were no issues of misconduct at unions, his half-baked proposals stink of panic and desperation and must be ignored. Shorten is peddling a political trap Malcolm Turnbull must avoid at all costs.

One of the (many) substantive criticisms made of Malcolm Turnbull by conservative Liberals, as the embarrassing final months of his hapless first stint as Liberal Party leader played out, was that Turnbull was too eager to provide “bipartisanship” to Labor at every available opportunity, thus eliminating any and all points of difference between the Coalition and the ALP.

From wasteful, misdirected, and largely unnecessary stimulus spending to Kevin Rudd’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme and to a slew of controversial Rudd government initiatives, Turnbull repeatedly traded away the opportunity for the Coalition to differentiate itself and to some extent, the country is paying for some of these own goals now through the ballooning national debt Turnbull helped inflate by waving then-Treasurer Wayne Swan’s ill-advised stimulus package through Parliament.

There are already signs this love of “bipartisanship” remains alive and well in the Turnbull bunker, but more on that a bit later.

The Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption is to hand its final report to the Governor-General today, with its subsequent release by the government set to occur as soon as tomorrow; The Australian is carrying a report that details a letter — sent by opposition “leader” Bill Shorten to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull last Wednesday — the aim of which is basically to enable the ALP to evade the political fallout from what is universally expected to be a damning indictment on union behaviour by proposing a series of half-baked, half-arsed and abjectly pathetic last-ditch measures to reposition Shorten and Labor as “tough” on union misconduct.

Frankly, any utterances by Bill Shorten, his parliamentary colleagues, or their cronies in the union movement to the effect that they are at all concerned with malfeasance at trade unions should be dismissed with the contempt they deserve, and no Australian voter should succumb to the temptation to listen to a man whose political career is deservedly terminal trying to slither toward credibility on the backs of the many of his union buddies who now face prosecution.

For the past two years, Labor and the unions — to a man — have stonily maintained the mantra that the Royal Commission was nothing more than a politically motivated witch hunt, despite ample evidence at the time it was instituted of wrongdoing and illegal behaviour at a number of unions that more than justified such an inquiry being convened.

When this position began to grow indefensible (and to look absolutely ridiculous to the watching Australian public) the line about politically motivated witch hunts gave way to increasingly bitter attacks on the Commission, individual Commissioners, and legal counsel working on it.

Thanks to some imbecile at the NSW Division of the Liberal Party who saw fit to extend an invitation to Royal Commissioner Dyson Heydon to deliver the annual Sir Garfield Barwick Lecture — an invitation that was, it seems, hastily and unthinkingly accepted — Labor and the unions were handed a soft target upon which to turn their onslaught, and respected former High Court Justice Heydon was subjected to an outrageous and baseless barrage of accusations of wanton political bias and personal slurs from elements at the ALP nonetheless pretending to act in good faith and in the name of upholding the law.

Shorten, for what it was worth, earned himself an official reprimand at one of his appearances before the Royal Commission, for despite having publicly pledged to “co-operate fully” with the Commission — he could hardly fail to promise to do that — his testimony was vague, rambling, tangential, and waffling.

(Needless to say, there was much that Shorten — just like a lot of other persons of interest who appeared before Heydon — could not remember).

And when all of those endeavours came to nowt, Labor’s designated attack chihuahua Penny Wong led the charge of an equally insidious push to politicise the office of the Governor-General and have Sir Peter Cosgrove intervene to shut the Commission down on the basis of spurious charges of “bias,” obliterating its 1975-vintage position of outrage that the Governor-General accepts advice from his or her Prime Minister and no-one else (Whitlamesque emphasis added).

Now, in the cold light of a pre-Christmas hangover and facing an imminent federal election Labor is increasingly likely to lose badly — and confronted by the dawning reality that the Royal Commission’s findings are certain to be very, very grim — all of a sudden, Shorten wants to “help.”

Shorten has already been advised that he personally faces no action arising from either his testimony before the Commission or from his time at the helm of the AWU in Victoria and nationally. But in view of the belting that seems set to be unleashed on unions and union officials over alleged violations of various laws, his preparedness to be “tough on union wrongdoing” now is disingenuous, to say the least.

At this point, I refer readers to an article published in this column just three weeks ago, following the arrest and charging of CFMEU figures John Setka and Shaun Reardon; that article deals, in part, with a so-called clean-up of the union movement Shorten announced at that time a Labor government would pursue, and it contains a link to a piece from the Courier-Mail that details at length exactly what Shorten’s “clean-up” might entail.

As I pointed out then, Shorten’s regime of proposed penalties were unlikely to deter the most hardened and militant unions from repeat transgressions in future. Yet the details of what Shorten now apparently proposes — as reported in The Australian and based on his letter last week to Turnbull — seem, if anything, even softer than what he trundled out to deflect attention from the arrests of Setka and Reardon.

The one nugget from The Australian‘s article this morning is the proposal to reduce the political donation disclosure threshold from $13,000 to $1,000 for individuals, companies, and unions: this probably sounds great to anyone loosely interested in probity in politics, and it also plays into Labor’s longstanding obsession with cutting the Coalition off from the corporate monies that Labor (for what I would have thought are obvious reasons) generally fails to attract.

The intention is obvious: with sleight of hand, Shorten’s “initiative” is intended to deceive people into thinking that just as the Coalition would be cut off from corporate donations, so too would Labor be cut off from the mass funding it receives from union members’ fees.

But the glaring omission is that no provision is contained in the proposal to stop unions from funding and engaging in political campaigns of their own: the $13 million advertising blitz against WorkChoices in the run-up to the 2007 election, for example, was booked and paid for by unions directly — not from funds donated to the ALP. Under Shorten’s proposal, there would be nothing to stop unions from effectively conducting campaigns against the Coalition from their own funds on Labor’s behalf. Electoral advertising laws require only that advertising material carries an authorisation and details of the organisation to which the person providing it belongs.

In other words, Shorten actually has the bare-faced audacity to put a proposal on the table that purports to crack down on illegal union behaviour but which in fact would result in the Coalition being permanently handicapped if ever implemented whilst the ALP — with a slight readjustment to its relationship with the unions — could skip off, scot-free, to a more advantageous position at all future election campaigns.

It isn’t for nothing that Shorten is increasingly derided as “Billy Bullshit” by those who watch politics, but this is just one smartarse manoeuvre too many.

It isn’t unreasonable to subject unions to the same standards of accountability and governance that apply to the business community; the union movement has been allowed to act as a law unto itself for far too long. The damning imminent report of the Royal Commission is the end destination of such latitude, and it has to stop.

Shorten’s protestations that it is “unfair” for “union volunteers” to face penalties for misconduct akin to those applicable to company directors should be ignored; it’s a bit like saying an incorporated small enterprise with two staff should be immune to the law as well. It shouldn’t. If such regulations are as “onerous” as he claims, then all that expertise in training unions have been caught out issuing false invoices for at the Commission might be put to some practical effect in bringing their “volunteers” up to speed.

But really, just the fact Shorten is trying to negotiate anything over this issue at all is a sign he knows his union mates are cornered and, coming this late in a process that has gone on for two years, stinks of desperation, expediency, and panic.

The deeply unpopular Shorten was only ever able to assemble election-winning poll numbers on account of the six years he and his party spent demonising, defaming and then crucifying former Prime Minister Tony Abbott; once Abbott was removed from office, there was nothing to detract from the simple fact Shorten is completely unelectable.

The Turnbull government has a perfectly good Registered Organisations Bill on its books; it has only been voted down by Labor and the Communist Party Greens out of self-interest and to protect their union mates. There is no principle involved on the part of Labor and the Greens in defeating that Bill three times to date, and those parties should be shown no indulgence now in the face of a stack of prosecutions set to hit the organisations their handiwork has repeatedly been contrived to protect.

And this brings me back to the Prime Minister and his past fondness for “bipartisanship.”

It is true that Turnbull and Trade minister Andrew Robb compromised with the ALP to get the free trade agreement with China through Parliament recently — not coincidentally, in the face of a concerted and dishonest campaign by the CFMEU to discredit it — and whilst the amended version of the agreement was and is better than no agreement at all, it would be disturbing if those compromises were successfully exploited by the ALP as a precedent to hoodwink the Prime Minister into doing its dirty work now.

There is no middle ground when it comes to eradicating and punishing illegal behaviour, and there are no grounds for leniency (in the name of “fairness”) in shielding unions from the standards that should have been imposed upon them decades ago, and to which they have been immune for far too long.

The recommendations of the Royal Commission should be adopted and implemented without exception, and every alleged instance of criminality resulting from it vigorously prosecuted.

As for the Coalition’s Registered Organisations laws and the accompanying legislation to reconstitute the Australian Building and Construction Commission, these should be reintroduced to Parliament as a matter of great urgency and — if once again voted down by Labor and its associates at the Greens — immediately used as grounds to call a double dissolution election fought on the issue of acceptable standards and probity in the union movement and those sections of the wider economy the unions have for decades been allowed to control unfettered.

As for Shorten, Turnbull must tell him to tell his story walking.

Shorten deserves the electoral humiliation he is on a collision course with and his union mates deserve to be brought to justice. It is not Turnbull’s job to either help Shorten retrieve his standing as Labor “leader” or to ameliorate the punitive action headed in the direction of Trades Hall.

And were Turnbull to agree to the duplicitous attempted stunt that would shackle the Coalition at future elections whilst effectively allowing unions to run and pay for Labor’s campaigns, it would validate every past doubt held about his judgement by conservative Liberals once and for all.

Simply, Shorten is trying to entrap Turnbull. It is imperative he be given nothing more than short shrift.

 

Utter Contempt: Deregistration Must Follow CFMEU Charges

IRRESPECTIVE of the outcome of blackmail charges laid against CFMEU figures John Setka and Shaun Reardon, deregistration of the CFMEU must follow; this violent, militant union has repeatedly ignored and/or flouted the law, and its dissolution is well past due. Token “measures” announced by Labor “leader” and union thug Bill Shorten to clean the union movement up should be regarded as the utter bullshit they are, and ignored.

My comments this morning will be kept circumspect insofar as the charges are concerned, for they relate to matters that are now before the Courts and they should not — under any circumstances — be prejudiced, especially by anyone heartily fed up with the excesses of the union movement in this country.

But more broadly, the slow but incessant trickle of charges arising from Dyson Heydon’s Royal Commission into the trade union movement has now touched the highest profile identities to face prosecution to date, with CFMEU Victoria state secretary John Setka and his 2IC, Shaun Reardon, arrested at the weekend and charged with blackmail offences relating to the supply of concrete by Boral to Melbourne construction giant Grocon, a hated enemy of the CFMEU on account of its refusal to allow unions (and the CFMEU specifically) to dictate the running of its building sites, or to decide who will act as shop stewards on those sites.

Typically, Setka bleated publicly about being arrested in front of his kids, but law enforcement officers (got that John? LAW enforcement officers) don’t book a table for high tea with jammy scones and cream at the Windsor in the pathetic hope alleged miscreants will show up and exchange pleasantries — and then surrender themselves. The arrest has to happen somewhere, and if your kids happen to be around when the Police know you’re home, then that’s just how it is. Get over it.

My understanding is that Heydon indicated that in Setka’s case, there may be grounds for additional charges to be laid for coercion over separate breaches of industrial laws. It is not clear, at time of writing, whether those charges (or any others) have been laid in addition to those relating to the alleged blackmail offences.

First things first: partly owing to the sensitivity in providing a surfeit of comment, and partly because it’s a big issue — with the results of Heydon’s investigations now beginning to take form — there are a couple more additional links today than I would normally provide, and readers may peruse a selection of material from both the Fairfax and Murdoch stables here, here and here.

If convicted, Setka and Reardon face up to 15 years’ imprisonment.

What I do want to touch on briefly is the shocking record of industrial thuggery of the CFMEU more broadly, for this bastion of total disregard for the law has thumbed its nose at literally every attempt to force it to operate in accordance within a perfectly reasonable legislative framework. Setka and Reardon are not the first CFMEU figures to face charges as a result of the Heydon inquiry, and a fair expectation based on the balance of probabilities suggests they won’t be the last, and far from the “politically motivated with-hunt” the TURC has been smeared as from the top down in both the union movement and the ALP, the growing list of prosecutions it is generating merely underlines the validity of such an inquiry in the first place.

As The Australian notes today, the CFMEU has this year already paid $9 million to Grocon and $3.55 million to Boral to settle legal proceedings brought against it over its behaviour; these are not the only instances of restitution it has been compelled to make in recent years, and separate to those payouts the CFMEU has also been slapped with multimillion dollar fines for contempt of court.

Even those Trades Hall figures — and their associates — that I have encountered from time to time over the years refuse to dispute the assertion that the CFMEU is easily the most militant and at times violent union in Australia.

Like bookends, its excesses run from the kind of alleged misconduct Setka, Reardon and their cohorts have been charged with at the one end, right down to the growing tendency for CFMEU-uniformed thugs to spill out onto roads in front of oncoming traffic, instantly becoming abusive and threatening toward drivers if remonstrated with (or almost hit, due to their cavalier disregard for anyone or anything but themselves), at the other.

Already, there are two state Labor governments in office — in Victoria and Queensland — that largely owe their existence to CFMEU money, manpower and other resources; here in Victoria, the Andrews government refuses to act whilst CFMEU thugs run riot on construction sites across Melbourne. In Queensland, the Palaszczuk government has moved quickly to dismantle the Newman government’s so-called VLAD laws, which were in part aimed at outlaw bikie clubs with direct links to the CFMEU.

And for sheer weight of muscle — not just fists and guns, of course, although there has been plenty of that from this union over the years, but the firepower provided by the unrivalled ability to procure virtually inexhaustible streams of cash, however dubiously — the CFMEU has shown itself to be notoriously immune to monetary penalties handed out by Courts over its misadventures, and the forced restitution and fines for contempt of Court are regarded merely as a transactional cost of doing business.

In this sense, the so-called clean-up Bill Shorten announced would be imposed on the union movement if Labor wins the next election is fatuous; a regime of penalties that features line items such as fines for relatively minor transgressions increasing from $10,000 to some $18,000, with others at the top end of the scale for more serious criminal misdemeanours increasing to $216,000, is not going to be regarded by a union that has proven able to ingest more than $10 million in fines and compulsory payments with anything other than ridicule.

Shorten’s proposed “regime” — just like anything else he has to say — is utter, utter bullshit, and should simply be ignored.

It wasn’t so long ago that he, and his stooges at the ALP, sought to politicise the Office of the Governor-General by trying to implicate Sir Peter Cosgrove in a half-arsed attempt to shut down the Royal Commission before it could either report and/or recommend further charges against additional union identities.

The charges that have been laid against Setka and Reardon, had Labor succeeded, would in probability never have been laid.

And in fact, the Cosgrove attempt aside, given Shorten has spent the past two years trying to shut the Royal Commission down — and in view of the stream of charges that are flowing from it — anything he has to say about ALP efforts to clean up the union movement should be regarded with utter contempt.

If he were serious, Shorten would be leading the charge to deregister the CFMEU, in the same way the Hawke government took the lead from its Liberal predecessor (and the Thompson Liberal government in Victoria) in having the BLF shut down in the early 1980s.

Yes, the festering remnants of the BLF were reborn as the CFMEU and yes, something similar would probably happen today if the CFMEU is deregistered. Already there are plans to merge the CFMEU with the equally militant MUA, and this in itself might afford some cover to CFMEU figures who would be targeted and potentially barred from holding office as union officials in any deregistration attempt.

But Shorten isn’t serious. He is a con man and a consummate bullshit artist. And anything he says about enforcing union accountability, and the intent of any government he might one day lead in Fairyland to enforce it, is on par with the prospect of the sun rising in the West tomorrow morning.

If there is one thing the Heydon inquiry has starkly illustrated, it is the need for enforcement to stay one step ahead of the lawless thuggery and bastardry that seems endemic in the union movement in this country: and that lawlessness can be sheeted home, in large and disproportionate measure, to the Gillard government’s sellout to the unions on industrial policy and through the abolition of the Australian Building and Construction Commission, which must be reinstituted as a matter of urgency.

Gillard’s government was every bit in the control of militant unions as Shorten Labor, Andrews Labor and Palaszczuk Labor is today.

So let’s hear no more of the idiocy that Labor — especially under its current “leader” — will lift a finger to clean up the union movement at all, if (God forbid) it and he should win the coming federal election.

Dyson Heydon is to be congratulated for his inquiry’s pursuit, without fear or favour and in the face of defamatory smears and more malignant forms of resistance from the unions, of those with serious questions (and possible cases at law) to answer where the outrages of unlawful union misconduct are concerned.

The arrest and charging of Setka and his sidekick is to be welcomed and applauded. Decent unionists who have no truck with the illegal actions their leaders have allegedly and systematically indulged in over many years, should be cheering the loudest of the lot.

 

Newspoll: The Bell Is Tolling For Bill Shorten

WHILST SUPPORT for Malcolm Turnbull has settled in the latest Newspoll, Coalition support has risen again; cleared of criminal wrongdoing at the Royal Commission into the unions and with debate over GST increases in full swing, Shorten Labor has fallen further behind nine months from a scheduled election. Electoral sentiment on Shorten now seems final. An election to lock him into position would be an astute move by Turnbull.

Whether you support Malcolm Turnbull or not — and whether you believe his Prime Ministership will be a success or a sellout to soft liberal policies that sit counter to the majority of the Liberal Party base, which is more conservative than liberal, or not — the inescapable fact is that the Liberal leadership change seems to have not just had its intended effect in retrieving the government’s standing in opinion polls, but that effect is starting to appear more durable than many, including among Turnbull’s most enthusiastic backers, believed or dared or hoped.

The latest Newspoll, in today’s issue of The Australian, continues the stunning recovery of support for the Coalition that has taken place since Turnbull replaced Tony Abbott as Prime Minister eight weeks ago, and whilst personal support for Turnbull appears to have plateaued (at levels nonetheless unseen for a leader or Prime Minister since the early days of Kevin Rudd’s initial stint as PM), the government continues to pull further ahead.

What appeared as a certain Coalition defeat under Abbott seems to have been recalibrated to indicate a certain Coalition victory, and this column believes an election — announced today for 12 December, or within the next week to utilise the final practicable election date this year of 19 December — should be called to capitalise on the hapless, hopeless Shorten’s complete lack of appeal to voters and to lock in the government’s new-found ascendancy over the Labor Party.

But first things first: since its previous survey a fortnight ago, Newspoll finds primary vote support for the Coalition rising one point, to an almost ridiculous 46%; it finds support for the ALP and the Communist Party Greens each declining by the same degree, to 34% and 10% respectively; and support for “Others” up one point to 10%.

On a two-party basis after preferences (based, importantly, on flows at the 2013 election), this equates to a one-point increase to 53% to lead the ALP , with 47%, by six points.

The reason I think preference distinctions between the 2013 result and these figures (if replicated at an election) are important is that the Coalition primary vote, based on this survey, is obviously more solid than the 45.6% recorded under Abbott at the polls two years ago; moreover, there is no discernible major threat to the Liberals and Nationals on their right flank — for now at least — with anecdotal evidence across all polling suggesting that “Others” contains a Palmer component of a solitary point at most, and the Katter Party probably lucky to account for even that.

And the reason I raise it is because despite bluster about electing the government on his party’s preferences, Clive Palmer’s presence in 2013 actually retarded the Coalition performance; a careful analysis shows his claim to be completely baseless, and whilst wiser heads on psephological questions than I would give a more decisive opinion (like Kevin Bonham or the ABC’s election guru, Antony Green), my best estimate of the overall flow of Palmer’s preferences in 2013 was a 60-40 split in Labor’s favour: hardly the handiwork of a jocular, avuncular conservative fellow traveller trying to carve out a niche of his own in friendly competition to the established conservative parties.

Palmer, of course, was anything but, and the effects of this subtle augmentation of the ALP result obviously dissipate further and further the lower his vote goes. And in my view, the spawn of ridiculous minor parties that has followed the Palmer Party’s implosion — the Jacqui Lambie Network and the even sillier Glenn Lazarus party — won’t matter a tin of beans when the votes are eventually counted.

In terms of personal approval, Turnbull has slipped by two points in Newspoll to 56%, with disapproval rising one point to 24%; Shorten, by contrast, sees the record low personal approval score recorded last time rise by a solitary point to 27%, with those dissatisfied with his performance declining by the same increment to 57%. The ratings for Shorten are within the range of some of the worst figures ever recorded by his arch-nemesis and supposedly most unpopular major party leader of all time, Tony Abbott, and no varnish can be applied to the fact they remain nothing short of abominable.

On the “preferred Prime Minister” measure, Turnbull (61%, -2%) continues to head Shorten (18%, +1%) by a wide margin of well over three to one.

Whichever way you cut this, the findings for Labor and for Shorten are nothing short of dire, and continue the trend that has seen the Coalition slowly but ceaselessly draw level with the ALP since the leadership change, and then pull further and further in front.

What spells mortal danger for Shorten’s prospects as a “leader” (and, of course, for Labor’s at an election) is the fact that having quickly accrued significant political capital in all major opinion polls, Turnbull has begun to spend some of it: the prospect of GST rises as part of a wider package of reforms has been ruthlessly seized upon by the ALP and its stooges, and used as the basis of a thoroughly dishonest campaign that insists the GST will simply rise and makes no mention of the tax cuts or increases to welfare benefits and pensions that would accompany it, and insulate the poorest Australians from its impact.

That campaign has singularly failed to bite, and the Coalition vote now sits above its winning 2013 level on primaries, and near it on a two-party basis that might even understate the result if the Newspoll figures reflected the result of any election.

Not insignificantly, the fieldwork for this poll took place after Shorten had been cleared of criminal misconduct by the Royal Commission into the unions: and even if one accepts Shorten was somehow deprived his stipend of good press from this development by the release of the news at 8pm last Friday, the ensuing ruckus kicked up by him and those around him well and truly ensured everyone was aware of it by no later than Saturday.

If GST scares (against a backdrop of actual consideration of GST changes) and Shorten getting off the hook at TURC can’t retrieve his standing it is impossible to envisage anything credible that might do so.

It does rather look as if people couldn’t care less whether Shorten is charged or not, and a sentiment I have heard freely expressed in the past few days is that even if he didn’t break any laws, Shorten remains a very iffy figure in people’s minds. They don’t like him. Critically, they don’t trust him an inch. Shorten is to Labor what Tony Abbott, under the stewardship of advisors completely out of their depth, had become to the Coalition — an utter turn-off and a clear vote-loser. These judgements appear to be final.

These judgements are also consolidated and validated by every other reputable opinion poll; the polls have moved almost uniformly over the past eight weeks, and the scale of those movements has been virtually identical across all of them.

A single poll mightn’t be worth much as a meaningful predictor of likely electoral behaviour, but a basket of them is: and this Newspoll comes in bang on the average of the lot of them, which is a 7% swing to the Liberal Party in just eight weeks. The consistency and scope of the rejection of Shorten Labor and concurrent embrace of Turnbull is simply too overwhelming to ignore.

With concrete evidence of leadership machinations at the ALP taking place away from the glare of public scrutiny, there is really only one course of action to suggest: an immediate election, for both Houses of Parliament, before the end of the year.

Turnbull might not as yet have a reform blueprint finished to place before the electorate, but the debate on tax reform is far enough advanced for some firm parameters to be quickly decided and included in the Coalition’s pitch that leave ample room for the detail work to be finalised after polling day, and a package presented to Parliament with the imprimatur of an electoral mandate.

I don’t think Turnbull has anything to fear from facing Tanya Plibersek or Chris Bowen as leader at this time; Albanese might put up more of a fight, and I understand he is the primary prospective replacement for Shorten following Plibersek’s stupid and illiberal edict that ALP MPs should be forced to vote to legislate gay marriage. And beyond those three, Labor has nobody worth talking about as a potential leadership candidate at this time.

But as insulated from the risk of a Labor leadership switch as Turnbull might appear, why risk encountering it? Why not seek a mandate for a further three years when nine months is all that is left on the clock now? The argument that Turnbull is a new leader at the head of a new government is a compelling one. And as we have discussed many times, unlike Julia Gillard he is well known around the country, and has been for decades. Voters would already know the man they would be asked to endorse at the polling booth.

A double dissolution now — with a Coalition primary vote edging toward 50% — would also offer an opportunity to increase numbers in the Senate (even if still falling short of controlling it) that will evaporate if and as support for the government ebbs, as it inevitably will. Better to go now, with close to half the country ready to provide a first preference vote, than to wait for some months and potentially face a shitfight just to be re-elected.

Yet whether an election is announced in the next seven days to lock Shorten into his post and capitalise on the excellent Coalition position or not, the message from this — and every other — poll is very, very clear.

And that, simply, is that voters have written Bill Shorten off; his standing this year has collapsed, and has now consolidated at disastrous levels. This poll finds just 18% of respondents see him as the preferable candidate for the Prime Ministership. Ominously for Shorten and for Labor, there is every chance that figure could decline even further.

The bell is tolling for Bill Shorten; at the very minimum his colleagues are readying to put him out of his misery; and whether they do it this week or not, Turnbull could act decisively to finish him off once and for all by calling an election: and virtually guaranteeing re-election in a landslide in so doing.