A bit more of the iceberg

Just a day after this post on wrongdoing in the pursuit of the government’s anti-union agenda comes the news that the AFP is liaising with the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions about whether charges should be laid over leaks from Federal Jobs Minister Michaelia Cash’s office about raids on the Australian Workers Union. It remains to be seen whether charges will be laid – if so, it will be a breach of the normal protocol under which unionists are charged in the most trivial cases, while business owners and politicians are almost invariably let off.

A striking, and closely related, example was Human Services Minister Alan Tudge’s release, to a friendly journalist, of the social security files of a blogger who had complained about the department. This contrasts notably with the routine invocation of “client privacy” when the Department is accused of wrongdoing and wants to avoid responding.

As an aside, following discussion of the previous post, I tried to think about a benchmark for the (very limited) criminality and wrongdoing exposed by the Commission. Thinking about it, most Australian universities 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.

7 thoughts on “A bit more of the iceberg

  1. Fred, of course stealing from the Liberal party is going to be handled differently to stealing from share holders, customers, or the government.
    Not suggesting you are trying to defend the Liberal party, in fact can’t work out whether you are disagreeing with John Quiggin. But an interesting point all the same.

  2. Agreeing with JQ fully Martin. Sorry if it’s ambiguous.
    While I’m here I’ll add this.
    In the next few weeks the AFP, who were strongly criticised for their methods in pursuing unionists eg their collaboration with Boral which resulted in a confidential pay out to the unionists after the case was thrown out of court, and the DPP, who are currently persecuting, sorry prosecuting, Witness K over the COALition’s bugging of East Timor, are going to meet to negotiate whatever over Cash’s office leaking to the media re the raid on the unions. The current head of DPP, recently appointed by the COALition government, was formerly a senior consultant to Abbott’s/Dyson Heydon’s anti-union TURC.
    Interesting eh?

  3. A lot of behaviour that would ordinarily be thought of as criminal is perpetrated by bosses every day of the week. Even when the boss gets hauled before the courts – usually by the Fair Work Ombudsman but occasionally by a union or a worker, often all the boss gets its a little slap on the wrist. Bosses who underpay workers often create false records to cover their tracks. Here is a typical case from a few weeks back: ***http://www.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdoc/au/cases/cth/FCCA/2018/1578.html

    The fine for making and using fake records in the above case was just over $8,000 even though it made it impossible for the Fair Work Ombudsman to work how much two workers were underpaid, which allowed the boss to get away with it.

    If an employee created false records to cheat the boss out of few thousand dollars s/he would face criminal charges and almost certainly get at least a criminal conviction unless the amount was very small.

    Meanwhile the cheating bosses can keep employing workers and shake off any substantial fines by “phoenixing” (provided they have a company business structure rather than a sole trader business structure, a prospect that will be even more appealing if the SME company tax rate is cut).

  4. Exactly my thoughts Hugo when I watched Doug Cameron crucify that pathetic political appointment, not Cash, he already has her “done and toasted,” in the youtube video Fred posted in a recent comment. He “appeared” to have all the numbers and was certain that there was an enormous amount of corruption in the building industry. I wonder if he had as close at hand the number of phoenix companies. Probably difficult given the rapid turnover of some.

  5. Thanks, Poselequestion.

    I estimate two out of three companies taken to court by the Fair Work Ombudsman go into liquidation. Some may be genuine but others use it to get out of paying fines. At the moment no authority is rigorously looking out for phoenixing activity and some cowboy bosses do it four or five times before anyone pays any attention. Then of course they register a new company in their wife or mum’s name! It is a rort but we hear little about it because worker misbevahiour is judged far more harshly than boss misbehaviour.

  6. The dubious Royal Commissioner himself ruled he may have appeared to be biased to the suspicious and malicious but not the reasonable lay observer. This “ruling” was made in response to the submission in withdrawing from attending a Liberal lawyers’ function he was admitting bias by his own conduct. He said he did so to avoid the suspicions of bias by the malicious. Come on Dyson now you are getting very close.
    When Shorten was giving Stoljar and Dyson himself a real towelling, in purported advice to Bill as to his manner of testifying, commented I am here to “assess your credibility”. A reasonable lay observer might think the Commissioner chose these words knowing the media would report that he had issues with Shorten’s credibility. He eventually found no lack of credibility in Shorten, but as a decent honest person would have, proferred no apology that his words may have fuelled that expected wrong assertion in the [Murdoch especially] media.
    Now we have the DPP [Brandis’ appointment] also counsel assisting the Royal Commission above upon her appointment providing no substantial reasons in tossing out the Ashby/Brough/Pyne etc. prosecution for stealing Slipper’s diary. She has been entrusted to consider the prosecution of the AWU raid media facilitators including Cash !
    I assert at the very least to a reasonable lay observer the DPP has been compromised and arguably as an officer of the Court taints its process.
    ps. I not aware of any successful criminal prosecution arising from this RC.

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