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Tuesday, 24 December 2013

A series of late 1995 speeches in the Senate about Bruce Wilson

The Federal Senate heard an extraordinary series of speeches from Senator Michael Baume in the weeks after Bruce Wilson left the AWU.


Senator Baume's first speech was on Wednesday, 18 October, 1995.

Senator MICHAEL BAUME (7.29 p.m.) —Tonight I wish to raise an extraordinary situation, which was reported in the media, relating to the repayment by the Australian Workers Union—the largest union affiliated with the ALP—of donations totalling $150,000 to five organisations that made those donations in August this year. The repayment, which is no doubt extraordinary, is even more extraordinary when you consider the people to whom these repayments of donations were made. For example, more than $100,000 of the $150,000 in donations was from the legal firm Phillips Fox and the construction company John Holland.

  Phillips Fox received back its $58,000 donation to the AWU and John Holland, which is under the control of Mrs Holmes a Court, received back its $43,000 donation. I am intrigued about the Phillips Fox payment because Mick Young, a former minister in a Labor government, is a consultant to Phillips Fox and is described as a very effective communicator with the government. They say that they have a team of experts who know the correct path to follow in order to achieve optimum results for their clients. They say that they work well with Australia's political decision makers, ministers, their policy advisers and the appropriate bureaucrats at all levels. That raises an interesting question about the purpose of their $58,000 donation to the AWU.

  I suppose you could say the same about John Holland Construction. I do not think it is unreasonable to say that Mrs Holmes a Court is not held at a distance by the leadership of the Labor Party. There are other people who made smaller donations. The fact is that the companies initially paid the money to AWU national construction branch officials who created a slush fund to campaign, according to a media report, for re-election in union ballots.

  The big question in my mind is whether this was the real destination for this money. It seems extraordinary that these funds would go to supporting a factional fight within the AWU, although it is noteworthy that the factional fights within the AWU are fairly exciting. One would be surprised if companies of the status of John Holland and Phillips Fox would contribute $100,000 between them to support a particular faction within the AWU, although the bitterness in this dispute was severe.

Read more at the Senate Hansard, click here.



The next day then Senator Jacinta COLLINS (Labor, became a minister in Gillard's second cabinet) spoke to clear up any misunderstanding about the Bob Smith one and Bob Smith II issue.

This was Thursday, 19 October 1995.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS (7.14 p.m.) —In this evening's adjournment debate I wish to make some statements in relation to comments made last evening by Senator Michael Baume. Senator Baume made a range of wild comments in the Senate last night regarding the Australian Workers Union and, more specifically, its Victorian branch. Regrettably, some of his claims appear to be factual, but many of them create a misleading impression about the current administration of the AWU's Victorian branch.

  From mid-1989 to early 1992 the secretary of the AWU's Victorian branch was a Mr Bob Smith. This person no longer has any connection with the union, and he has not since 1992. His successor, Victorian secretary Mr Bruce Wilson, similarly ceased to be connected with the union in about August this year.

Read more of Senator Collins speech at the Senate Hansard here.


On Tuesday 21 November 1995 Senator Baume was on his feet again - read the entire speech here.

and Executive Council places the finances of the Victorian Branch under Forshaw's control. With some heavy-handed persuasion, the Branch Executive is persuaded to "invite" WA Branch Secretary Bruce Wilson across as Acting Secretary . . . Bruce Wilson has had an amazing career. He was defeated by the rank-and-file in his 1989 challenge to Errol Hodder for general secretary, but then appointed as WA Branch Secretary two years later. Good career move!!! Then a year later, he was appointed as Acting Secretary of the Victorian Branch. After Bob Smith is away on leave over six months (!!!), Wilson was finally appointed as fully legal Victorian Secretary in February last year.

Branch members in either Victoria OR Western Australia haven't had a chance to pass judgement on these extraordinary happenings in Perth and Melbourne. The last time Victorian AWU members had a chance to judge Bruce, in electing Annual Convention delegates, his team of candidates were clearly rejected. Over the past two years, the sackings and cutbacks have continued—

that is, in the branch office—

at an alarming pace. No accurate figures are available, but informed guesses have Branch membership at less than half the 1990 membership (i.e. less than 8,750 financial). On top of this, AWU-FIME National Executive have attempted to merge the Western Australian and Victorian Branches of the AWU—and unify control in a small Divisional Executive. For Victorian members, the situation is farcical.

That is not from the Liberal Party; it is from one of the factions in the AWU. Another faction in the AWU states:

The History of AWU—FIME 1995 Election started with the AWU Executive Council hijacking of the NSW AWU Federal Branch. The NSW AWU Branch had over a million dollars in investment, it owned properties including it's own office building and had a healthy membership, giving the trend of the size of Unions these days.

The Branch Executives was made up of some paid officials and a fixed proportion of Rank and File members which ensured that the Union did not become directed by professional officers to the detriment of members. The members were receiving a good level of service.

Because of the treachery of the `National Secretaries', Steve Harrison and Michael Forshaw, the amalgamation was completed without the NSW AWU Federal Branch being fully consulted on the final issue of the amalgamation or the `Rules' of the amalgamated Unions.

This led to a set of Rules being drawn up mainly by FIME's legal council and a member of the `Executive Council' without the protection of advice from the AWU Solicitors, Carroll and O'Dea which was a requirement that the NSW AWU Branch Executive had made a condition of the negotiations.

The result was:

1.Rank and File representation on the Branch Executive being `swamped' by paid officers and organisers. This gave the `Branch Secretary' unlimited influence as he has control over the employed Branch Executive Committee members.

2.The amalgamated Branch Executive of the AWU—FIME had a voting bias of 32 to 14 in favour of FIME.

3.Manipulation of Union Elections resulted in the fact that FIME Office Holders would stay in the office until 1997, yet the AWU office holders had to go to election in 1995, with FIME members entitled to nominate and vote in the ballot for positions on the AWU Executive. This led to FIME being able to force a deal that `blackmailed' the existing NSW AWU Federal Branch Executive Members from nominating in the Elections now being conducted.

Read more at the Senate Hansard here.


Then things started hotting up!  I'll split this post so it doesn't become too big - more soon.

One thing was crystal clear - the AWU had some very good leakers who were keen to see the Liberals well and truly informed about internal goings on.   Phil Gude was very well briefed when he made this speech to the Victorian Parliament on 12 October, 1995.