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October 2014

Who was the minister responsible for WA's Corporate Affairs Commission in June, 1992

The AWU WRA was incorporated on 24 June, 1992 and the payment of a $22 fee (on top of the $75 application fee) suggests it may have been incorporated after a ministerial review.

Once again we are indebted to Seeker of Truth for this notice in the WA Gazette of 9 June, 1992 noting Yvonne Henderson's absence in June.

J watson

Judyth Watson's bio is here.

It may be that the reason the incorporation was delayed until 24 June 1992 was the absence of Yvonne Henderson.

Enquiry about CBUS's response to Lisa Zanatta's admissions to the Royal Commission

I sent this email today, I'll let you know how we get on.

Michael Smith

8:21 PM (0 minutes ago)
to cbusenq
Dear Mr Atkin,
I refer to the admissions made in sworn evidence to the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption by your employee Lisa Zanatta last Friday, 3 October 2014:
  • that she took confidential CBUS member information and delivered it to an officer of the CFMEU.
  • that she knowingly gave premeditated false evidence to the Royal Commission about her wrong-doing
Is Ms Zanatta a fit and proper person to hold employment with CBUS having regard to CBUS's prudential obligations?
What action has CBUS taken in relation to the breach of privacy of its members?
I propose to treat this email as a public communication and to publish it along with your reply.
Yours sincerely,
Michael Smith

Fairfax's Mark Kenny and his excuse for Union Crime Inc.

Mark Kenny from the Sydney Morning Herald must have been on Mars for the past few months.

He could not have watched the Trade Union Royal Commission's hearings and then written this woefully wrong-headed commentary piece, published by the Fairfax organisation here.

The TURC daily discloses evil crimes committed by bold, brazen apparatchiks behind the hitherto certain cover of trade union omerta.   Any fair reading of Commissioner Heydon's letter to the Attorney General, combined with a modicum of understanding about the Commission's operational methods and intelligence (which doubtless have not been publicly disclosed) would lead a fair-mind, interested in the well-being of the nation to conclude that an extension is not only desirable, but a failure to extend the terms would amount to tacit approval of the crimes the Commissioner refers to.

Here is the Kenny argument.

Unions royal commission extension reveals true motivations

A cynic might say the 12 month extension of the royal commission into unions is politically convenient for the Abbott government because it will shift its report and release date to within sight of the 2016 election.

This was put to Attorney-General George Brandis by a Fairfax Media journalist on Tuesday and despite space implications, his explanation is reproduced here in full: "We're responding to what the royal commissioner has said to us."

Leaving aside that this is hardly a muscular refutation of a serious charge - to wit, using scarce taxpayer funds to manipulate an issue and wedge one's political opponents - is it even true?

Notably, the royal commissioner John Dyson Heydon did not openly seek the extension nor even the adjustment to his terms of reference now granted.

Indeed on this point he was explicit: "This letter is neither an application to widen the terms of reference nor an application to extend the reporting date," he wrote to Senator Brandis.

"Its goal is simply to acquaint you with what the senior staff of the Commission think can be achieved by December, with the difficulties which, in their view, have faced the Commission thus far, and with some possibilities thereafter."

Dyson Heydon even appeared to discount the value of a longer inquiry while acknowledging the scope was already sufficiently broad: "It is true that it has not been possible in the short time available, and indeed would not have been possible in a much longer period, to identify every piece of conduct falling within the Commission's terms of reference."

In other words, we haven't uncovered everything the inquiry gave us scope to study and would not be able to with twice the time. 

Implicitly, however, he may well have sought that expanded remit, for what was the point of the letter if not to invite said broadening?

"It is very apparent from what Mr Heydon says in his letter that there is a large amount of unfinished business before the royal commission which from a practical point of view would not be able to be considered satisfactorily were the original reporting date adhered to," Senator Brandis said while unveiling the change.

The vibe perhaps?

The real reason for the extension now comes to the fore: Simply put, the union royal commission has not yet delivered the political bang for the public buck its champions had so eagerly anticipated.

Indeed, the "big fish" it was meant to land have wriggled off the hook. Former prime minister Julia Gillard's hours in the witness box discussing her pre-parliamentary work as a union solicitor promised so much but in the end delivered dull TV. There was no smoking gun, no gotcha moment. Ditto it seems for Tory hopes of fatally wounding Opposition Leader Bill Shorten's reputation by linking the former AWU boss materially with dodgy union dealings.

Kenny goes on and you can read his entire piece here.   It goes without saying that the Commission's internal and confidential workings would not have been disclosed in the publicly released letter to the Attorney General.   The Commission is doing a great public good and its extension is in all our interests.

Some things Mark are above politics.

Slater and Gordon sues person behind a bogus, sham "association"

On 22 October 1993 Slater and Gordon sued an AWU official Len Gandini and others for allegedly defaming Ralph Blewitt.


Bernard Murphy, Julia Gillard and the Slater and Gordon partnership acted for Blewitt.

The lawyers sought exemplary damages from Len Gandini.

One of the reasons they pleaded in support of the extra damages was that Gandini had prepared and published a flyer:

No such group

It's right throughout the court documents, this was a very serious matter according to Slater and Gordon, that the Defendant authored documents from the "AWU Rank and File Reform Group" when no such group existed.

No such group 2

So it's a serious matter, worthy of exemplary damages to create a document that purports to come from an association or group that doesn't really exist.

He who lives by the sword...............

Some inconvenient facts for Thiess executives

On 22 December 2012 The Australian published this  story:

We put $300,000 in AWU slush fund, says Bruce Wilson's brother-in-law Joe Trio


You don't really need to read beyond the headline to get the jist of that story.   Trio's top of mind recollection was that Thiess paid $300,000 to Wilson's fund.   Not that Thiess was delivered a finely tuned training program by Wilson.  $300,000 was .5% of the anticipated total contract value, a nice round figured bonus paid to the person who was instrumental in having the contract awarded to Thiess by the WA Government, Bruce Wilson.

Here's Bruce Wilson in his own words with Nick Jukes' responses - all handily set out in one sworn document, courtesy of the Royal Commission.  I think it's fair to say that Counsel Assisting is on to them.

JukesStatement_001 JukesStatement_002 JukesStatement_003 JukesStatement_004 JukesStatement_005




Nick was emphatic in setting out who he was dealing with in that letter, even capitalising the A in Association.

When Bruce went to Melbourne and Thiess got the deal with Melbourne Water, new payments to the AWU WRA followed soon after.

It will be interesting to hear how Mr Jukes explains this next step when Wilson introduced a new entity, the National Construction Branch - based out of the same secret PO Box in Perth. 


Const branch

"Two Versions Trio" won't be much help - this report from The West Australian from the time sets out Joe's initial and then revised recollections.


The "Drive for Dignity" and $100K in AWU slush funds to help out Carmen Lawrence

Bruce Wilson spent $100,000 in AWU money on a project called "Drive for Dignity" as part of Carmen Lawrence's election campaign in early 1993. 

At the time Wilson was receiving $300,000 in corrupt payments from Thiess after it won a $60M WA Government contract for the Dawesville Channel - without a tender.  

Carmen Lawrence's Cabinet made the decision to award the $60M contract to Thiess.   Given what we know about corrupt payments flowing at the time, I think the Drive for Dignity $100,000 slush fund warrants closer examination by the Royal Commission.

The following extract is from "A Financial Analysis of the AWU West Australian Branch 1991-1997" by Dr John Lourens published here.

Drive for 1 Drive for 2

So the Drive for Dignity was funded by AWU general operating money and at a time when the accounts were in deficit.   So how was the decision to spend $100,000+ made?

The Royal Commission published the minutes of Wilson's AWU WA Branch meetings here.  The following extract sheds some new light on the origins of the "Drive for Dignity".



Wilson started speaking about Victoria's political environment that morning.   It wasn't immediately clear what relevance that topic had for the AWU's WA Branch.


This topic was titled  "Industrial Relations Report - Victoria" which sounds innocuous.   But hidden in the detail is the "Drive for Dignity" approval - the nett effect was an apparent $100,000+ payment from AWU coffers in direct support of Carmen Lawrence's election campaign.

Drive for dignity


In 1993 the WA branch was in financial strife before the Drive for Dignity; it couldn't make a $308,000 payment to head office and overall it posted a $780K deficit.   Someone must have really wanted to spend $100K on the Drive for Dignity, particularly when the business case set out in the minutes above was so short on detail.

This extract from Dr Lourens's financial analysis gives you some sense of the branch's income statements for 1993 and surrounding years.

1993 deficit

By October 1993 some members of the union were sufficiently concerned to print flyers criticising the branch's management.  This extract is from defamation proceedings Slater and Gordon brought against the authors of one flyer who'd taken Wilson's successor Ralph Blewitt to task:

October 1993

Junket trip

So even at the time the spending was viewed with concern.   Fast forward to 12 May 2014 and Ralph Blewitt gave the following evidence to the Royal Commission.

MR STOLJAR: Q. Mr Blewitt, you were describing at the
 13 outset of this examination a role that you said Mr Wilson
 14 played in Thiess obtaining the tender to carry out work at
 15 the Dawesville Channel project. Do you remember giving
 16 that evidence a couple of hours ago now?
 17 A. Yes.
 19 Q. You said he had had various meetings with a Mr Taylor,
 20 I think the name was, and some others. Was that something
 21 Mr Wilson did from time to time - have negotiations of that
 22 kind - to your knowledge?
 23 A. Sorry, negotiate?
 25 Q. With the --
 26 A. He was a branch secretary of the union. He negotiated
 27 with all sorts of people.
 29 Q. Did he involve himself in political affairs at all?
 30 A. Oh, yes.
 32 Q. Can you tell me a bit about that?
 33 A. The Western Australian branch - I'm very sketchy on
 34 the memory of this, but we were a major supporter of, from
 35 memory, Carmen Lawrence's campaign in Western Australia.
 36 We ran a "drive for dignity" campaign to support that
 37 election campaign, and I think our office, WA, donated
 38 $100,000 to the ALP for that campaign.

Like I said, the Drive for Dignity $100,000 is well worth a closer look.


John Faulkner's Light on the Hill speech delivered last night

Last night John Faulkner delivered the inaugural The Light on the Hill Society address at the Revesby Workers' Club.  You can read a precis here at The Guardian or the entire speech here.     This paragraph sets the tone:

Widespread contempt for the practice of politics is not because Australians have lost faith in what politics really is. It is because too many Australians have come to see our parliaments, our governments, our political parties, and our politicians, as practising not politics but its opposite: a values-free competition for office and the spoils it can deliver.

Faulkner is right but his is a lonely voice on the Labor side of politics.   Labor's rot was evident in Richardson's "Whatever It Takes" approach, but at least Richardson had men like Mick Young, Tom Uren and others with real character in the old Labor mould to curb the excesses.     Now Labor is chockablock with flim-flam spin merchants who've had no grounding in the days when men of substance guided Labor. The bulk of today's Labor crop are people for whom character and the truth simply don't count.

Labor has institutionalised a trenchant, contemptuous disregard for the truth.  Truth is an irrelevance, helpful if the facts aid your cause but of such low intrinsic value as to be hardly worth noticing.  Regardless of the truth, what matters to contemporary Labor is spin-doctoring and talking points.   It's not what you've done, it's what can be proven and how effective you can make the "fix".   Over time people who participate in that daily charade lose their character and become soulless, blank canvases capable of saying anything with conviction.   Like Labor.

Lisa Zanatta was a tragic example of The Labor Way at the Royal Commission last Friday.   Mates, favours, the cause - she was doing no different from the example set by Ms Gillard and others in the Parliament.   Lying effortlessly and in the apparent belief that some higher purpose justified it all.

When Craig Thomson told me he'd used union funds to pay for prostitutes I wrote to Julia Gillard to ask if she supported that standard of behaviour.  Gillard's spin-doctor wrote back quoting Ms Gillard - Craig Thomson had her full support and was doing a great job.   Ms Gillard now says she had no choice because of the hung parliament - she had to support Thomson or she'd potentially lose power.

And that's the point.  Gillard's priorities were askew.   Her poor character simply could not see that some things are more important than political power.  

Here are the first few pages of John Faulkner's speech.


242149121-Sen-John-Faulkner_002 242149121-Sen-John-Faulkner_003

Jon Faine and the ABC owe Hedley Thomas a serious, considered apology

Hedley thomas

I have done a little work alongside Hedley Thomas and I know the character of the man.   No one tells Hedley Thomas what to write.   He does not engage in "get her/him" campaigns.   He puts his name to what he writes because it's his - his words, his view, his story.   Hedley is guided by the single thing he values most.   The truth.

Jon Faine used the ABC's platform and his quasi-journalist status today to verbal Hedley in a despicable, gutless and manifestly false slur.   I know Faine is wrong because I've worked with Hedley jointly writing stories on The AWU Scandal.   I can say with unique confidence that for Hedley it's the truth that counts and nothing else. 

Faine is a barracker, an unembarrassed booster for cause Gillard.   Good on him for that.   But he and his editor in chief would do well to keep that status in mind - and not to pass it off as journalism.

Here's the offending slur, broadcast on ABC Local Radio Melbourne between 11AM and midday.


Confirmation the Royal Commission will run all next year - report due December 2015

UPDATE 5.15 7 October 2014

There are a couple of important points that may be missing from some of the coverage of the Royal Commission today.

Firstly, Commissioner Heydon did not ask for an extension, he didn't hint, he didn't suggest.   His letter makes clear that he and his team have adopted a hard-working approach to a tight reporting timeline.   He will meet the initial report date of 15 December, 2014.   If he accepts an extension or further Commission that report will be an interim or initial report with a final report in December 2015.   It's important to recognise there's been no ill-discipline or scope creep - it's to the Commission's immense credit that it's kept its focus when there were so many rabbit warrens to explore.

Secondly it might be presumptuous to assume that Commissioner Heydon would accept a further term.   A year is a very long time doing this highly concentrated work.   I hope for the nation's sake that he does accept any extension or widening of his Commission, but let's see.



Dear attorney

Dear attornney

Attorney 3


Here's the ABC's report including video of the Attorney General making the announcement today.

Royal commission into union corruption time frame extended


Attorney-General George Brandis has moved to extend the reporting time for the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption by a year to December 31, 2015.

Senator George Brandis said he had received a letter from the head of the commission, Dyson Hayden (sic - that would be Commissioner Dyson Heydon AC QC), saying criminal conduct had been identified during the hearings held to date.

The letter said "the inquiry thus far has revealed evidence of criminal conduct, which includes widespread instances of physical and verbal violence, cartel conduct, secondary boycotts, contempt of court and other institutional orders and the encouragement of others to commit these contempts".

"It is very apparent from what Mr Hayden says in his letter that there is a large amount of unfinished business before the royal commission," Senator Brandis said.

"It is very plain that the problem of criminality and the associations between certain unions and certain union officials and crime is a much more widespread problem than appeared to be the case when, at the beginning of this year, the Government decided to establish the royal commission."

The royal commission will now release an interim report in December before the full report next year.

More to come.

This decision is wholly due to the Royal Commissioner's representations to the Government about the extent of the corruption he's seen.   That said it can't have hurt that so many of you saw the need too and wrote to both the Commission and the Government with your calls for more time.

We published this editorial on 6 August 2014.   Good on the Abbott Cabinet for seeing the need and supporting the Commission's important work and providing the resources that natural justice demands.