Merry Christmas and thank you all. I'm off for a sleep - then hello to the overnighters, true believers and husbands on couches, 2GB at 2AM till 6!
9 and a bit hours to go till I have the privilege of filling in for Brian on 2GB, 2am until 6am tomorrow morning.
Thank you for your support during the tough days, it's good to know so many people care.
We will have a lot of fun on 2GB in the wee smalls tomorrow (Katarina's already laid mine out). So to everyone who's still at Christmas lunch, get stuck in, go hard, fall asleep on the sofa then ring me up on 131873 after 2AM when you're wide awake.
Just a reminder, a gentle one but a powerful one - from The Australian.
Christianity has been good for us. Very good. Let's look after it.
Merry Christmas Australia.
On the Christmas list: something truly good
JESUS doesn't need an electric hair curler. Or a skydiving voucher, thank you very much. The wise men presented him with gold, frankincense and myrrh, not an X-Box, Nerf gun and plasma TV.
Mary didn't work behind the perfume counter. Joseph didn't stand around with a microphone spruiking mobile phone deals. And hark, the herald angels didn't sing: "Twenty-five per cent off everything in store until midnight."
For a guy whose birthday the Western world celebrates, Jesus is increasingly becoming a gatecrasher at his own party. Maybe if he'd been born in the middle of a Westfield shopping centre on a bed of JB Hi-Fi catalogues surrounded by My Little Ponies, he'd attract more of a crowd before his family was frogmarched outside by security for making a scene.
The central message of Christmas - God taking human form to offer the gift of eternal life to all who believe in him - has slowly been suffocated for quite some time by indifference and secular activists who seek to ban nativity scenes in schools and public spaces just in case someone - anyone - bursts into tears and runs home.
Society wants the tinsel, but the baby in a manger who grows up into a young Jewish bloke calling for people to return to God? Forget about it. Mum, turn on the TV instead and indulge in that other great Australian Christmas Day tradition, Lethal Weapon.
As a practising Christian and an Evangelical at that, it has been a mixture of mourning and horrified fascination to watch what postmodernism and secularism are transmogrifying the season into. Without the sacred, and the restraints that come with it, Christmas looks more like an episode of Survivor with shopping trolleys.
Hedonism and materialism have replaced sacrifice and humility, and no wonder people are left feeling hollow.
Like many Christians in the West, I wrestle with the proposal of moving the religious festivities to another date altogether. Give unto God what is God's, and unto Caesar whatever comes with a free set of steak knives.
Indeed, my most important Christian celebration is now Easter, in remembrance of Jesus taking sin upon himself, conquering death and appearing to more than 500 witnesses, many of whom were alive to interview when the gospels were circulated. Shops can peddle chocolate eggs all they like but they can never sell salvation.
However, surrendering Christmas to mammon is pointless as rampant consumerism will continue unashamedly, and ultimately it now requires a counterbalance.
Christianity needs to encourage people - both secular and the religious - who are disillusioned with the season to consider swapping the commercial with a call to alms.
My own journey of change began aged 15, when I had the greatest ever fight with my father. A big man who loved Christmas, its food and gifts, he didn't take too kindly to my suggestion that our family of four abstain from buying presents and instead give the money to charity. We had plenty. Others didn't.
The old man's face burned up red like he'd swallowed a firecracker and he refused to speak to me for a fortnight. Neither of us got what we wanted, but I was happily banned from the family gift list that year.
This self-denial wasn't satisfying enough throughout my adult life until three years ago, when I rediscovered a love of Christmas with the most unlikely people.
Kirribilli, one of Sydney's wealthiest suburbs, has a well-heeled population of lawyers and bankers but, unbeknown to most, also two large housing commission towers that are home to hundreds of pensioners, widows, immigrants, the elderly, mentally ill, disabled and sick.
They're the unseen. They'd never get an invitation for drinks with the prime minister, whose residence is within walking distance. They'd more than likely be turned away by a five-star hotel. Scores don't even get asked to their family's dinner.
But the door is opened to them by the local Church by the Bridge, which offers a free Christmas lunch catered for by 20 volunteers, and attracts up to 180 men, women and children, similar to those hosted by dozens of other charity organisations across the city. They are also joined by local residents who are clearly well off but lonely or abandoned by their adult children.
Amid the laughing, lucky door prizes and conversations, each receives something more than just a plateful of salad, ham, chicken, bread rolls and pudding. They are loved selflessly, without question and without cost. They create their own community for one day.
For us volunteers, the payoff is bringing joy to others. It's about sacrifice, selflessness and servant-heartedness. It's also about not letting the unwanted be forgotten and turned away by their fellow citizens, just like Jesus was at his own birth.
God humbled himself by becoming human, washed people's feet and cared for lepers, prostitutes and women two millennia before suffrage and equality laws were even heard of; so why shouldn't the rest of us?
Scott Monk is a subeditor with The Australian.
WMC TALKS FAIL; QUITS $105M WA EXPANSION
|Western Mining Corp has carried out its threat to abandon a $105 million expansion of its Kambalda nickel mines in Western Australia after failing to reach agreement with union members on the introduction of continuous rosters.
The decision looks certain to cost the jobs of 150 mine workers.
The company said yesterday it had no other alternative, claiming Australian Workers Union officials had reneged on an agreement that would have allowed the introduction of continuous 8-hour shifts.
"The AWU's declared intention not to honour the agreement reached, but to rather seek further renumeration left WMC with no alternative but to advise the union that our formal offers were withdrawn," WMC's general manager of West Australian operations, Mr Phil Lockyer, said.
"Kambalda must operate at an internationally competitive level.
"If the only way we are allowed to do this is to downsize then that is the course of action we have to take," Mr Lockyer said.
Yesterday's announcement ended months of tense negotiations that began at the start of the year after a 12-month review of the company's nickel operations. The review recommended up to $400 million be spent on the mining, smelting and refining facilities to make these businesses internationally competitive.
To a significant degree WMC was successful, winning sufficient concessions from the State Government and employees to allow it to commit to expand the Kalgoorlie smelter, the Leinster mine and the Kwinana refinery.
But Kambalda, the most important part of the nickel operations, became the stumbling block. The company simply said there were two alternatives. These were to accept a 24-hour-a-day seven-days-a-week roster, or to reduce operations.
The demand for the new roster, which would replace the current 7 1/2-hour roster worked over five days, was made to match the competition, the company argued.
Negotiations on an industrial agreement broke down at a meeting yesterday morning chaired by the Deputy State Premier, Mr Ian Taylor.
WMC said AWU secretary Mr Bruce Wilson had accepted a final package on Saturday, which was subsequently confirmed by Mr Taylor.
The company claimed the union had then withdrawn from the agreement in an attempt to seek more renumeration.
Mr Lockyer said the company had shown good faith in the negotiations by retaining more than 50 employees at Kambalda who were surplus to the current operations.
Western Australia is the only State that restricts mining operations to five days a week under its Mines Regulation Act.
WMC has argued this has put mining operations in the State on the back foot, when compared with competitors here and internationally.
The company managed to gain support for this argument from the State Government but at this point the Act remains in place and union opposition continues to be entrenched.
"Without a full commitment to work practice reform, to eight-hour continuous shift rosters, we were simply unable to justify the capital expenditures necessary to mine deeper ore at some mines. We had no alternative but to downsize our Kambalda operations," the company said.
The Kambalda mines are WMC's largest nickel operations, producing about 32,000 tonnes of contained metal a year out of total contained nickel in concentrate of 54,010 tonnes.
However, the agreed expansion at Leinster and the likely start-up of the Mount Keith open-cut project in WA, recently acquired as a result of the successful bid for Australian Consolidated Minerals, has given WMC some production alternatives.
Although important, the company is now arguing some production at Kambalda is expendable if the right cost structure cannot be put in place.
NICKEL PLANS ON THE SLAG HEAP
1990: WMC plans $400m expansion subject to union/WA Govt approvals.
Sept 4, 1991: $127m expansion of Leinster mine after rail charges reviewed.
Sept 14: $50m upgrading of Kwinana refinery announced.
Sept 27: $41m to be spent on Kalgoorlie nickel smelter.
Nov 4: WA Govt to overhaul mine regulations to allow seven-day rosters.
Nov 11: Australian Workers Union against eight-hour day continuous rosters.
Nov 12: Abandons $105m Kambalda expansion after union blocks new rosters.
ROUGH ROAD TO MINING REFORM
September 1988 - Coal Industrial Tribunal ruling clears the way for flexible rosters in NSW, permitting production six days a week, 52 weeks a year.
March 1991 - MIM Holdings Ltd seeks $100 million of cost savings through work practice changes and redundancy program to guarantee competitiveness of Queensland base metals operations.
April 1991 - At Renison Goldfields Consolidated's Renison tin mine in Tasmania, 350 employees agree to a survival plan to make operations competitive.
November 1991 - WMC Kambalda nickel miners reject 7 day a week continuous rosters. Company says 150 jobs to go.
So 13 November, 1991 - sackings and no agreement from the AWU.
But by January 1992 - after the Thiess/Wannunup announcement in the Dawesville project and contract signing.......
Hon N.E. MOORE: That idea came from Western Mining management - from a mine in
This is Joe Isherwood - a fine looking cut of a bloke at 70 in this recent photo. I reckon he could still hold his own with a two-bob hoodlum like Wilson.
Richard Court refers to Joe Isherwood in this brief exchange from the WA Parliament's Estimates Committee hearing on mining held 17 October, 1991. Court gets to the core of the Wilson/Kambalda issue and Wilson's preparedness to be so clearly thuggish, selfish and irresponsible.
Mr COURT: .....I raise the matter because it has been debated for some time. Agreement was almost reached in the case of Western Mining Corporation. At that time the Australian Workers Union, under Mr Isherwood, was moving to accept those changes.
Mr GORDON HILL: That is right.
Mr COURT: This issue reflects the problem we have in this State at present - and this is a criticism of the Government. Although these changes are believed to be in the best interests of all of the people involved in the industry, the matter has become bogged down in an internal Australian Labor Party fight over whether the changes should be made. Mr Bruce Wilson is heading a campaign opposing the changes. It is the minister's responsibility to change these regulations if they need to be changed. The ALP can by all means have internal fights, but it is delaying a company's carrying out programs.
At the same Estimates Committee hearing the Dawesville arrangements were reiterated - that is the government (as at 17 October 1991) was planning to let tenders and choose a contractor through a competitive process. A reliable source tells me that during the time of the Kambalda ructions, Wilson was lobbying Deputy Premier Ian Taylor to appoint Wannunup/Thiess directly to the Dawesville project - the timing and Wilson's involvement in meetings with Mr Taylor during the period tend to support my informant's advice. It's an atrocious thought, but the possibility remains that all that pain to the workers, the state and Western Mining in the Kambalda dispute might have been occassioned to provide leverage for Wilson to get his way in the Dawesville contract.
I've spoken with 3 miners with good memories of what happened in Kambalda - they all say the same thing. There was a deal to get on with work and Wilson came in and put the kybosh on it. He broke his word, reneged on deals that had been struck and went out of his way to sabotage any agreement with Western Mining. This was at a time when WA had almost 12% unemployment. The miners I've spoken with all agreed that work practices had to change - when mining machinery tied up millions of dollars in capital it made no sense to have the machines sit idle while men worked the hours that suited pick and shovel operations. The resistance to a more contemporary shift roster came from Wilson.
A Royal Commission will find out what went on behind the scenes to cause the WA Labor Government to award the Dawesville Channel project directly to Wannunup/Thiess without competitive tender and the role that Wilson played.
But pending the Royal Commission, one thing is crystal clear - and that is the power that an AWU officer like a branch secretary wields in the Labor party system of bloc votes. The Hansard in WA during this time is replete with references to the AWU's role at Labor Party congress, preselections, policy decisions and the like. It's clear that with the backing of Bill Ludwig Wilson was becoming used to getting his way.
When Frederick Reibeling gave his maiden speech to the WA Parliament on gaining the Pilbara seat of Ashburton in an early 1992 by-election, the first non-family figure he thanked was - you guessed it, the date was 28 April, 1992:
I could-not have achieved a decisive victory in Ashburron without the support of
all sectors of the Labor Movement. Bruce Wilson, Glen Ivory, Mick Dayes and Henry
Rozrnmianic of the Australian Workers Union, Wally Pritchard, Tony Papaconstuntinos and
Erol May of the Seamens Union of Australia, and Martin Pritchard and Mark Bishop of the
Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Union were all of invaluable assistance throughout
the campaign. My local Australian Labor Party branch president, Jon Ford, showed true
leadership and dedication to winning the seat for Labor, and his wife Taryn gave magnificent
support. Other members of the local community whom I would like to acknowledge particularly, and nor all of them are Labor Party members, include Kevin Richards, Patrick
Bourke, Cathie Wyllie, Wendy Whitchurcb, Gina Pritchard and Noel Nielsen. In
Pannawonica Steve and Clane Kelly always provided a weary candidate with refreshment and
were excellent hosts to the Premier and her guests at their tavern, while in Onslow Mike and
Jessy Callaghan's help was indispensable.
I thank all the Australian Labor Party members of Parliament, both Federal and State, who
assisted in many ways. My thanks must especially go to the Australian Labor Party members
of Parliament with whom I share the privilege of representing the Ashburton area. Their
support was magnificent, especially the efforts of Hon Tom Stephens and Hon Mark Nevill.
Also, if my support in Ashburton ever reaches the level enjoyed by my colleague, the Federal
member for Kalgoorlie, Orsemne Campbell, I will be very happy. I followed his campaigning
precepts and we doorknocked Pannawonica in suits and ties when it was 48 degrees in the
shade. I am pleased to be able to inform the House that he took off his coat before I took off
mine. As well, I particularly thank Jerry Maher of Mahter Durack Media for his assistance in
getting my message across through the media. I know his skills and competence are
recognised on both sides of this House and I am indebted to him for his contribution on this
occasion. I will have more to say about the media later. Finally, the direction and back up given to me by Chris Evans, the State Secretary of the Australian Labor Party, Lois
Anderson, the Assistant State Secretary, and my campaign director once more demonstrated
the professionalism and unity of the Labor Party at a time when the so-called experts were
writing us off.
Wilson is mentioned in the parliament in WA twice in the next month:
On 24 November 1992, Wilson was again mentioned in the WA parliament as the opposition enquired about the BCITF. Wilson's continued presence on the board was interesting given that he was by then formally the Victorian Branch Secretary of the AWU.
BUILDING AND CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY FUND - BOARD MEMBERS
Building and Construction Industry Training Fund - Industries' Concerns; Revenue and
1511. Mr KIERATH to the Minister representing the Minister for Training:
(1) (a) Who are the members of the building and construction industry fund
(b) what organisations do they represent?
(2) Is there a high level of dissatisfaction in the mining, petroleum and farming
industries with the Building and Construction Industry Training Fund which
consider the levy as an unreasonable tax on development?
(3) (a) How much has the BCITF raised since inception;
(b) what revenue is projected for the 1992-93 financial year?
(4) (a) How much has been expended on training programs by the BCITF to
(b) what additional expenditure on training programs is planned, or has
been committed by the BCITF;
(c) what surplus/deficit is expected by the end of the 1992-93 financial
(5) Has all training expenditure been approved by all members of the BCITF
(6) Can the Mtinister give an assurance that no funds raised by the BCIT have
been expended on refurbishing premises owned, or leased, by the unions
(7) Is a review of the BCITF legislation, with a view to excluding mining,
petroleum and farming from the am bit of the levy, being undertaken?
(8) (a) Who is to conduct the review;
(b) what are its terms of reference?
Dr GALLOP replied:
The Minister for Training has provided the following reply-
(1) Mr James Snooks, Chair
Mr Harvey McLeod, Director, Master Builders Association
Mr Kevin Reynolds, Secretary, Builders Labourers Federation
Mr John Dastlik, Chief Executive, Housing Industry Association (WA
Mr Tony Heelan, Manager, Industrial Relations, Chamnber of
Commerce and Industry
Mr Trevor Dobson, Manager, Industrial Relations, Australian
Federation of Construction Contractors
Mr Neil Flynn, Acting Secretary, Construction, Mining and Energy
Mr Bruce Wilson, Branch Secretary, Australian Workers Union
Mr Jock Ferguson, Assistant State Secretary, Amalgamated Metal
Mr Steven Tweedie, Director Policy, WA Municipal Association,.
Mr Bernie. Ryan, Department of Employment, Vocational Education
and Training Ms Ann-Marie Heine, Manager, Training and Development Services,
(2) The mining, petroleum and farming industries have indicated their
concerns about the levy.
To 31 October 1992, the BCITF has collected $6 917 494.
$1 718 631.
$5 378 000.
Approximately $900 000.
(7) The member is referred to the answer to (8)(b) of this question.
(8) (a) Mr John Carrigg of the Western Australia Industrial Relations.
(b) (i) To determine the current and historical level of
investment by the petroleum, mining, and agricultural industries into the training of employees undertaking the
building and construction work as defined in the
Building and Construction Training Fund Act 1990,
detailing Government subsidies and other assistance
(ii) To determine to what extent the petroleum, mining and
agricultural industries employ, or utilise through
contractual arrangements, labour trained by other
sections of the building and construction industry as
defined by the Act.
(iii) To determine whether the building and construction
work undertaken by the petroleum, mining and
agricultural industries should be subject to the BCITF
Remember Vassilis? Vassilis Telikostiglou?
PG: Right. And, when Bruce came to Victoria, did he come alone or were there other Western Australian people who came with him?
JG: No, he came alone. Yes, at that stage I think he came alone. He was subsequently joined by an organiser from Western Australia called, his proper name (was) Vassilis Telikostoglou. He is known as either Bill Telikostoglou or simply Bill the Greek
I didn't, I've never, I didn't pay for the bricks, I didn't pay for the bricks. I've never had an account in relation to the fence. Now, I don't, I don't know what that means about where Bill got the bricks from, and I don't know whether that means anybody worked with him on the fence, that I haven't paid. He, you know, he pleased as punch sort of said he had built it for me. That he had built it for me. Whether that means he himself did it, given Bill's obvious difficulties with the truth I no longer know.
PG: What are Bill's obvious difficulties with the truth?
JG: He's just a big Greek bullshit artist.
I wonder if anyone told Melbourne Water? Here's BRW from 1993 when the Melbourne Water contract with Thiess began. Robyn McLeod was on the scene right about then too.
A series of late 1995 speeches in the Senate about Bruce (Comrade Goose) Wilson and Bill (Comrade Boofhead) Ludwig
On 29 November 1995 Senator Baume made this extraordinary speech about Comrade Boofhead and Comrade Goose.
What is clearly happening is that the Labor Party has made a mess of it. While the ACTU does not see it that way, and claims that CRA is to blame for the Weipa dispute—the Labor Party says it is the Liberals' fault; the ACTU says it is CRA's fault—according to the union movement, the real culprit is the Queensland branch of the AWU and, in particular, the Federal President of the AWU who is also the secretary of the Queensland branch, Mr Bill Ludwig. I am assured by my leak from the AWU that he is known affectionately by his comrades as `boof' or more formally as `comrade boofhead'.
Senator O'Chee —Who is this?
Senator MICHAEL BAUME —This is Mr Bill Ludwig. I have here a letter that has been leaked to me which comes from Mr Bob Smith.
Senator Crowley —Mr Acting Deputy President, I take a point of order. I draw your attention to Senator Baume's reference to a person not in this place as being known as `boof' or `comrade boofhead'. The point of order I raise is that if that is to be acceptable from Senator Baume and his grinning opposition colleagues, I hope they will practise the same tolerance whenever something is said by those on this side. Otherwise, would you rule that out of order?
Senator O'Chee —On the point of order: Senator Crowley well knows that those provisions in the standing orders only apply to members of this house, members of the other place, members of state houses of parliament and judicial officers. From his conduct, Mr Ludwig is certainly not a judicial officer. He may give orders to the cabinet, but he is not a member of parliament—
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator McKiernan)—Order! Senator O'Chee!
Senator O'Chee —What?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —I think you are now approaching compounding what I consider to be an error that your colleague Senator Baume may have made. However, it is not a point of order. I do not think you should use the provisions of the standing orders in order to compound what I consider to be an error made by your colleague. I am ruling that there is no point of order.
Senator MICHAEL BAUME —Sorry, I did not quite understand what the ruling is. Should I withdraw it?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —No. There is no point of order.
Senator MICHAEL BAUME —Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President. I am certain that Mr Ludwig has the opportunities through the structures to respond if he feels offended. I am simply quoting his colleagues; I am not attributing that name to him. But the letter from Mr Bob Smith, the Victorian Branch Secretary of the Australian Workers Union, to Mr Ludwig on 23 November says:
YOUR RESIGNATION AS A.W.U. NATIONAL PRESIDENT
Your gross incompetence as National President (and Queensland Branch Secretary) has resulted in the disastrous situation at Weipa, W.A., and elsewhere. The AWU has become a laughing stock under your "leadership".
The responsible course of action for you would be to announce your immediate resignation as National President, and give notice now of your retirement as Queensland Branch Secretary in 1997.
It is impossible for those of us who didn't know you in the 1970s or 1980s to judge whether or not you were a good union official. It's clear enough now, you are a broken-down joke. Preserve some pride from whatever your past achievements, and end our embarrassment, by resigning now!!!
The mess which is "Bill Ludwig's AWU" began with your gutless failure to take effective action in Western Australia and Victoria against your incompetent friends there and here. The industrial fiascos at Mount Isa and now Weipa highlight your inability to represent AWU members. No wonder you prefer to spend time in Washington while members here are out on the grass!!!
Well, Bill. You know that a majority of AWU officials (ex-FIMEE and ex-AWU) aren't prepared to put up with your domineering—
and I will censor myself—
bull——anymore. I am happy to table a motion for the next National Executive:
"That the AWU National Executive express no-confidence in the industrial and administrative ability of its National President, and calls on him to tender his immediate resignation."
Now we know who is to blame, according to the union movement, for the Weipa fiasco, for the Mount Isa fiasco and for all the industrial relations fiascos that the government is saying, `That is the Liberal Party's fault.' It is just unbelievable what the government's defence for the chaotic situation has become. Remember that this is the government which says, `We know all about industrial relations and we will continue to buy our way out of any kind of trouble.' It has not bought its way out of this one.
I believe that this parliament and the people of Australia are entitled to an unequivocal assurance from this government that it will not give in to ACTU demands that incompetently run unions like this one must be the vehicle, according to the ACTU, through which workers' arrangements with CRA and other employers should be forced to be channelled. Quite frankly, if you were a worker in an area that was under the `control' of the AWU, would you want these people—people described as incompetent, hopeless and embarrassing who made a laughing stock of the union—looking after your best interests?
The AWU, for example, covered the poor workers in Paul Keating's piggery. The workers in Mr Paul Keating's piggery were AWU protected. That is why they got sacked when they complained about having been given under-award wages for two years. They are still before the Industrial Relations Commission trying to get justice something like a year and a half after their disgraceful sacking. While Mr Keating was half-owner of this piggery, they were paid less than award wages. Would you want the AWU to look after you if you were working in that situation?
Naturally, the great bulk of people at Weipa want to come to their own arrangements, which are a better deal than what the AWU could get for them anyway. Australians are entitled to ask: why can't workers choose to make their own arrangements unfettered by the incompetent hands of this kind of self-serving union hierarchy?
The `broken down joke', according to the union itself, that is running this union is obviously not someone who contributes to the wellbeing of his union members. The point is made in the letter by Mr Bob Smith, the Victorian Branch Secretary, that Mr Ludwig's efforts at representing his members at Weipa have been managed—of course, they describe Brisbane as `far away' when they are in Weipa—from even further away: in Washington, USA. It is a pretty inadequate attempt at interaction with one union's membership to try to do something from Washington.
I should acknowledge that Mr Smith may be considered to have a bit of a grudge against Mr Ludwig because Mr Smith is still trying to clean up the Victorian branch of the AWU after its virtual destruction by Mr Ludwig's famous running mate in AWU ballots, Mr Bruce Wilson. I am also told by my friends in the AWU who are his comrades that Bruce Wilson is know as Bruce the Goose or Comrade Goose.
Anyway, he is now helping police with their inquiries in relation to the use of certain property, including a union car and a couple of flats, which apparently the AWU did not realise it owned. There is also the small matter, which I dealt with earlier in this chamber, of the $150,000 which had been socked away in a slush fund, unbeknown to the union's state and federal officers, and quite a lot of which had to be repaid to the Brisbane office of a national solicitors firm called Phillips Fox, which, I understand, refunded it to a major oil company which had planned, apparently, to resolve its union problems by contributing to some travel funds.
Mr Smith's views on Mr Ludwig are shared, apparently, by people like the ACTU President, Jennie George, who has been strongly critical of the AWU and its failure to maintain numbers, particularly in Queensland. The Australian and the Brisbane Courier-Mail recently noted that Ms George blames the lack of union presence in Weipa and the consequent rise in the power of CRA, with these direct negotiations, on the failure of Bill Ludwig adequately to represent his Queensland members over the proceeding two years.
It seems that Mr Ludwig has failed to retain his 350 AWU members in Weipa, despite the best efforts of the Industrial Relations Commission and the Queensland commission to ensure that the AWU is the preferred union on that site. Heaven knows why in so many places in Queensland the AWU has been determined to be the preferred union on site, unless it is, of course, that the Premier of Queensland has a lot of political debts to pay to Mr Ludwig.
Mr Ludwig senior has said that maybe it is about 28 members who are left in Weipa, instead of 350. But his son Mr Joseph Ludwig, who was hired by his father under the authority of a Queensland AWU branch executive motion—that motion said they had authority to appoint an Aboriginal trainee, although I do not think he fits that category—admits that the union has only four members left in Weipa.
Unkind officials of the AWU and the ACTU say that these four members have retained their membership of the unions only so that they could have the privilege of running against Mr Ludwig senior at the next official ballot, to be held in June 1997. Clearly, senior officials of the AWU and the ACTU are worried that the AWU membership in Queensland has collapsed under the leadership of Mr Ludwig senior and Mr Ludwig junior—the latter being appointed by Mr Ludwig senior to run the Weipa campaign leading up to and including his Washington sojourn for worker solidarity. I am sure, to be fair to Messrs Ludwig, that these people simply fail to understand the broad international obligations of the modern trade union official. They are much more important than looking after your members, particularly those who work in, say, Weipa or Mr Keating's piggery!
How many members Mr Ludwig really has is a serious question. It is somewhere between 71,000 and 80,000. It is 71,000 according to the Queensland Labor Minister for Industrial Relations, but a few weeks later it suddenly grew to 80,000, according to Mr Ludwig. If he has that recruitment record, I suppose he will get re-elected. But the fact is—and this is a serious point, despite all that jocularity—that here is a major union part of a major dispute involving what is the right process for industrial relations in Australia and it is, on the admission of its own members, disastrously run. (Time expired)
You can read the entire speech at the Senate Hansard here.
On 1 December, 1995 Senator Baume was on his feet again.
The next matter I wanted to raise in this last adjournment before we rise for the New Year—in fact it may well be before we rise for the next election—is some further saga in the matter of the Australian Workers Union, which is now clearly being blamed by the union movement for the fiascos in Weipa and Mount Isa. This is the fiasco that of course the ACTU blames on the government and the government quaintly blames on the Liberal Party—although we have got nothing to do with it. The union movement clearly blames the AWU.
What concerns me is the flow of funds to curious accounts within the AWU involving Mr Bill Ludwig and Mr Steve Harrison, which is now becoming clearly evident. I have here some interesting documents. One of them is a letter from Mr Bob Smith, the Victorian secretary of the AWU, to Mr Ian Cambridge and Mr Steve Harrison, joint national secretaries of the AWU, regarding the formal charges against Bruce Wilson. The letter states:
I write to you following the Finance Committee Meeting on Wednesday 2nd August, 1995 and the issues raised by myself regarding charges against Bruce Wilson.
I understand he was the previous Victorian state secretary. The letter continues:
It is now my intention to lay charges against Bruce Wilson, under Rule 20 and 34 for being in breach of Rule 54. These charges are currently being framed by my lawyers and will be forwarded to you as soon as practicable.
These charges will also be forwarded on to the Industrial Relations Commission and the Police.
I was intrigued further to see a letter from Mr Michael Tylor, Managing Director of Hunter Industrial Management Services, to the AWU in which he outlines the money that this organisation paid. Chamber Consulting Services Pty Ltd is the particular company that was involved in these payments. He said:
All negotiations for the provision of Union coverage for the project plus payments to the Union were conducted with Bruce Wilson. Bruce agreed to allocate the services of Mark Barnes to the project (the National Rail standardisation project) for 2 days per week and in return I agreed to make payment of $400.00 per day to cover this specific service.
Now this employer was paying money to the union for a specific purpose apparently to provide services from the unions. He continued:
Cheques were made payable to the Australian Workers Union (I'm not sure if we also added "National Construction Branch" but that can quickly be verified by checking with the Bank if you require such detail). The only exception to this position was the agreement which I reached to pay Mark Barnes an amount of $800.00 as a "stand-by" payment to make himself available to respond urgently over the Easter holiday period, whilst he was on leave, if he was required.
So the company is paying union officials to be on service. He also said:
I received repayment of the abovementioned cheques to an amount totalling $6400.00 . . .
In other words, that money had to be repaid because apparently whatever slush fund it went into was subject to examination. I have already examined the repayment of something like another $150,000 under various headings in this matter.
I am concerned enormously that Chamber Consulting Services Pty Ltd manages the superannuation fund for this union—that is, the Nationwide Superannuation Fund. In fact the organisers get something like 73c per member per week paid by each NSF member. I do not know how many members they have but I think there are 140,000 members of the AWU. The AWU-FIME receives 20 per cent of the administration fee.
It is about time we had a good look at how these superannuation funds that are run by unions are in fact administered. It looks as though there are a lot of kickbacks, a lot of payments to associated companies. Chamber Consulting Services runs PSI superannuation management apparently because it holds a lot of shares. In that organisation we find PSI superannuation management, and there are also members of this union. I have photocopies of various cheques that float around. The use of these slush funds indicates a most unsatisfactory situation. (Time expired)
You can read more at the Senate Hansard here.
It's a tragedy of terrible proportions that no further investigations took place at the time. Keep in mind that while Gillard knew all about her handiwork in the AWU Workplace Reform Association, no one outside of a very tighly held circle of confidants knew anything about it. Wilson was able to continue banking money from Thiess and to sell the Fitzroy house and the money - was gone.
Here's the letter that Ian Cambridge sent to the Commonwealth Bank in April 1996 - this was the enquiry that uncovered the AWU WRA and other accounts as you'll see.
I'm keen to find out about the Workplace Reform Advisory account. I suspect that it has something to do with Wilson's activities (using Blewitt's name) in the old printing/catalogue scam.
Here's an interview I did with Ralph Blewitt at the time we uncovered that letter.