No iceberg, no tip

When Dyson Heydon delivered the report of the Royal Commmissioner into Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption, he claimed that his findings represented “the tip of the iceberg”. At the time, I commented that, given nearly $50 million of public money and lengthy hearings with the exceptional powers of a Royal Commission, the Australian public was entitled to expect the whole iceberg.

It turns out that I was too charitable. In the months since the Commission reported, a string of the charges he recommended have been thrown out or withdrawn In fact, six months later, there has only been one conviction, resulting in a suspended sentence. The only big fish to be caught since the establishment of Heydon’s star chamber has been the Commission’s own star witness, Kathy Jackson.

And the bills keep coming in. The last budget allocated $6 million more for the AFP-Victorian Police taskforce, which currently has outstanding cases against a grand total of six unionists. By contrast, taskforce Argo in Queensland, focused on child exploitation, has a budget of $3 million.

For another contrast, here are a few of the cases of alleged wage fraud, misappropriation of worker entitlements and so on that have emerged since Heydon’s Commission was launched: 7-11 ( million underpayment), Queensland Nickel, Pizza Hut, Myers and Spotless, and lots of small employers in the agricultural sector. That’s on top of the general run of sharp practive, environmental vandalism, market rigging, and dubious practices of all kinds.

It would be absurd to deny the existence of corrupt union officials and, though it is much rarer, systemic corruption, as in the case of the Health Services Union. But the continued failure of a massively expensive, politically motivated inquisition to turn up more than a handful of cases suggests that the problems are isolated, and that the real drive is to attack unions for doing the job of representing workers.

31 thoughts on “No iceberg, no tip

  1. @paul walter

    Well, it will certainly result in a few “jobs for you mates”.

    It is, of course, totally cynical. You could get 100 Australians chosen to be representative of Australian society. And you could get them to listen to the arguments of both sides for a couple of days. And then they could decide. Alternatively, you could take the people we already pay to do this sort of stuff, politicians, and ask them to do their jobs.

    Yeah, I guess refusing to do your job and then paying $160 million, and then after that reserving your right not to do what the $160 million decided, yeah, that sounds corrupt to me.

  2. @Ikonoclast
    Your #21

    So, maybe there should be some kind of moral judgement that mirrors the Scottish set of verdicts: Guilty, Not Guilty and Not Proven (I do sincerely believe we should have a ‘Not Proven option to put before juries).

    Otherwise, yes, ambivalence is inescapable. Especially if you are a devotee of deontological morality (and who isn’t given the total impracticality of utilitarian versions) because a deontological morality is, in fact, a sorta complex axiom based system – roughly the kind of beast that Goedel proved was either incomplete or inconsistent or both. And boy, aren’t all of our moral systems just like that.

  3. I think the cost of the plebiscite and other investigations are a function of democracy and also a indicator of a healthy functoning democracy. At the time they might seem to be extravagant and pointless but they do gently move all of us along, into another place, usually a better place.

    It’s a process that can’t be hurried.

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