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.