The tip of the iceberg

The pursuit of wrongdoing by unions and union officials by the Abbott-Turnbull government has been highly successful in producing evidence of wrongdoing. The problem is that the wrongdoing has been that of the pursuers, not the pursued. Some examples

* The forced resignation of Australian Building and Construction Commission chairman Nigel Hadkiss, after he was found to have breached the Act he was supposed to be enforcing

* Two separate cases in which the Australian Federal Police were forced to compensate the CFMEU and its officials for unlawful seizure of documents, wrongful arrest and other offences

* A string of failed prosecutions of union officials, many of them obviously involving an abuse of process. The classic was one dismissed by the judge in which an official was charged for “having a cup of tea with a mate

* The forced resignation of Michaela Cash’s senior media ­adviser David De Garis over an improper tipoff to the media regarding an equally improper AFP raid on the AWU

* The finding that Trade Union Royal Commission star witness Kathy Jackson misappropriated union funds, the very offence for which she had previously appeared as a whistleblower

But this is just, as Commissioner Dyson Heydon might say, the tip of the iceberg. It’s pretty clear that a more comprehensive inquiry would reveal extensive wrongdoing by senior ministers, and just about everyone involved in the Commission.

By contrast, the number of convictions achieved by this massive effort is embarrassingly small. The Commission has generated total of nine criminal convictions, only two serious enough to result in a custodial sentence. The total amount of money involved was less than the million dollars Heydon alone received for his efforts, not to speak of the tens of millions ripped off the Australian public by the lawyers and others involved in this farce.  As Kaye Lee observes

After spending endless time in parliament, $46 million on the RC, and unknown millions more on a dedicated police task force and lots of court cases, several of which have been abandoned, they have convicted one guy and a couple of accomplices for running a racket, one for taking kickbacks, two foul-mouthed bullies, two people who passed on information to help inform a union case about unpaid super, and one guy who lied about writing a list.

Of course, this was never about pursuing criminality. The whole point of the anti-union push is to keep wages down, and in this respect, the effort has been eminently successful. From the point of view of the employer class, the $46 million was money well spent.

10 thoughts on “The tip of the iceberg

  1. Thanks for collecting these and putting in one convenient place.
    Provides context.
    You may wish to add this:

    Doug Cameron in Senate Estimates asking Hadgkiss [and Cash] if there really has been ‘One thousand crimes on building sites’ as his official report stated.

  2. Thank you John and thank you Fred for the youtube link. The rot, decay in the LNP and their politicised public service would be pathos if it didn’t represent such a danger to the country.

  3. The liberal party will always attack the union movement. When you are merely puppets of big business and rich people you do as you are told. Why are the high income earners getting richer? Because the wages of ten million workers are been kept low. The growth in the national share of total income is now heavily in favour of the rich.

  4. I’ve never understand the politics of careerist tories siding with employers over employees. Don’t they realise that there are an awful lot more employee voters than employers?.

    Were I the CFMEU I’d actually have welcomed some of the stuff that came out of the Heydon commission because it highlighted how far that union would go to protect its members. I’d be quoting some of it in my membership drives.

  5. Derridaderider’s post made me think…..While employees do indeed out number employers, you have to remember that only a small portion of those are union members. Many have been convinced by an ongoing campaign that unions are corrupt bullies who do nothing for them.
    Seen from this perspective the very existence of the RC was probably enough to keep enough workers voting against their own interest AND out of unions. Its the same old story, as old as politics, as old as civilisation, probably older: Divide and conquer those who outnumber you but who you presently hold power over.
    The RC has successfully enabled the coalition government and the media to continue to perpetuate the narrative that unions are irredeemably corrupt. There doesn’t have to be proof, just a few examples are needed to get their message across. Labour and the Greens should be hammering this on a daily basis but *crickets*

  6. derridaderider

    Although it would be best not to mention former head of the CFMEU John Maitland, who is currently serving six years jail time for accessorising Ian Macdonald’s misconduct of public office.

  7. I’m sorry John you are spinning bigtime.
    The CEFMU have been shown to be criminal thugs. I’m afraid DD is in dreamland if he thinks this is going to lure people back to Trade unions.
    The ASU debacle shows Union officials lining their own pockets at the expense of the poorly paid. I know this affecting truer trade unions as this is what I am being told.

    It is terrible publicity for Unions just when they should be signing up members in large numbers because of wages.

    We need transparency in Union finances and elections so potential members can have confidence
    in the organisations in which they lack at present.

    We need a strong union movement unfortunately they seem to be doing their damnedest to ensure it does not occur

  8. I tried to think about a benchmark for the criminality and wrongdoing exposed by the Commission. Thinking about it, most Australian universities (including UQ, where I work) would have had a broadly similar record exposed over (say) the last ten years. That is, one or two cases of large-scale embezzlement (I get examples of this in compulsory training on what not to do), a handful of cases of fraudulent research and lots of trivial offences that would normally not be prosecuted.

    Of course, that’s what come to light in the ordinary course of events, without the expenditure of tens of millions of dollars on investigations with the coercive powers of a Royal Commission. I imagine the number of full-time union officials and staff in Australia would be comparable to the number of staff at a large university, but that’s just a guess.

    Then of course, you could compare the unions to the banks, or to the franchise sector.

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