Witness list for Trade Union Royal Commission CFMEU hearings Monday in Canberra
Laurie Oakes - Bill Shorten a gutless waffler incapable of delivering........

Senator Eric Abetz, Minister for Employment - Statement on the Royal Commission


There's a very big trap here for Labor.   Labor's mantra - that the Royal Commission is a witch-hunt, waste of money, political show-trials etc - is starting to wear very thin.  Every new revelation reinforces the reasons for setting the TURC up in the first place, and the revelations are currently coming thick and fast.

You'd expect anyone who  cares about trade unions to react at first with shock, then with a commitment to flush out the bad people and culture.

Labor reacts with dismissal, denigration, downplaying the seriousness of the findings etc.   If the Party persists with that line, it may find itself confirming to more and more voters that it is the Party that endorses crime and bad behaviour.   

Labor has recent form - in first delaying the Craig Thomson investigations, then in paying for Thomson's legal bills.  Its reacton to the TURC revelations is more of the same.   You can't defend the indefensible - and you can't start to reform yourself until you admit you have a problem. 

On that score, Labor clearly has a long way to go.

Here's a quick statement from Senator Eric Abetz, the Minister for Employment, setting out some of what the Commission's uncovered.

Statement - Royal Commission 

Published: Friday, 10 July 2015 16:21

Over past days the Labor Party has been engaged in a sensationalised attack on the impartiality, motives and utility of the Royal Commission and even of the Royal Commissioner.

“It is astounding that any Labor Member of Parliament would stoop to attack the independent Royal Commission that has the task of cleaning up union corruption for the benefit of honest union members,” Employment Minister Eric Abetz said.

“This Royal Commission has already revealed serious instances of abuse of power, apparent criminality and other corruption that needs to be addressed.”

“Far from addressing these abuses of power, the Labor Party is now attacking the body that is revealing the extent of the problem.”

The Labor Party seems to want to hide the fact that the Interim Report of the Royal Commission has already found:

  •          The NSW branch of the Transport Workers Union (TWU) sent the ALP inflated sets of membership numbers between 2005 and 2013;
  •          Certain officials of the AWU, NUW, TWU, CFMEU and HSU have used their union’s name and their union position to raise funds for their own benefit and the benefit of like-minded associates, even by compulsory levies on their employees, in breach of duties owed to union members;
  •          Superannuation fund Cbus put the interests of the CFMEU above those of its own members;
  •          A building redundancy fund, BERT, paid to fund illegal strike action and millions of dollars in CFMEU apprenticeship training;
  •          There is a culture of wilful defiance of the law that lies at the core of the CFMEU;
  •          The CFMEU has been engaged in a long-term illegal black ban of concrete company Boral;
  •          The Victorian CFMEU Secretary may have committed blackmail and should be prosecuted. He has also obtained services on his own property in exchange for industrial peace;
  •          The NSW CFMEU Secretary engaged in gross misconduct and lied to the Royal Commission;
  •          CFMEU officials have made seriously threatening comments to fellow officials, attempted to force an official out the union for raising legitimate questions about CFMEU dealings, unlawfully pressured companies to sign up to enterprise agreements with the CFMEU, unlawfully pressured a company to employ one of its members and to give him a good reference, abused Fair Work Building inspectors;
  •          An insurance protection product, Protect, paid millions of dollars a year to the Victorian ETU after it received the benefit of compulsory payments from employers under the standard ETU enterprise agreement; and
  •          Bruce Wilson and Ralph Blewitt used their positions as senior officials of the AWU to steal corporate funds for their personal benefit and should be prosecuted.

The Royal Commission has also heard evidence that raises serious questions about whether:

  •          Two TWU officials crafted elaborate schemes to use member money to purchase luxury American utes that they took into their personal possession as part of redundancy schemes;
  •          The Victorian AWU repeatedly invoiced companies, often under false pretences, in deals secretly struck with companies in return for boosted AWU memberships or other unexplained benefits to the AWU or its leaders;
  •          The Victorian AWU added a number of high-profile jockeys to its membership roll despite the Australian Jockeys Association stating that it never knew of any jockeys joining the AWU;
  •          The NSW CFMEU repeatedly entered enterprise agreements with companies connected with underworld figure George Alex, even though those companies repeatedly went into liquidation owing money to their employees. The Commission has heard that certain CFMEU officials may have received weekly $2500 payments in return.

Rather than shooting the messenger, the ACTU and the ALP simply need to acknowledge that Australian workers have been grievously let down by many elements in the trade union movement.

But for the Royal Commission, this information would have remained hidden from the trade union membership, who are clearly entitled to know.

This is why the Opposition should support legislation to introduce a Registered Organisations Commission and to reintroduce the Australian Building and Construction Commission.