Laurie Oakes - Bill Shorten a gutless waffler incapable of delivering........
A reader writes - "you need to shut down your right wing propaganda machine" - his letter and my response here

Workers coated in asbestos; buggered up backs? No issue was off-limits for an AWU sham consultancy - Thiess was happy to hand over the cash.

Bill Shorten's dodgy $30K back-strain research for the mates at Thiess is straight out of the Bruce Wilson sham consultant copybook - here's a deadly report from The Age, 25 September 1995

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One of Australia's leading construction companies, Thiess Contractors Pty Ltd, paid $25,000 to a trade union to clear the way for the use of contaminated soil in Melbourne's Western Ring Road project.

Under a deal between the Australian Workers Union and Thiess in January 1994, a large amount of soil containing low levels of lead, asbestos and other contaminants was used to construct sections of the $600 million Government-funded project.

According to documents obtained by The Age, the AWU Victorian branch agreed to lift work bans preventing use of the contaminated soil after the company withdrew threats of stand-downs, and offered to pay for a union-organised site study.

Union officials now say the study never took place, and the terms of the payment were never made public.

The AWU's national manager of occupational health and safety, Mr Yossi Berger, imposed the bans because of concerns about the health impact of the soil.

Both vigorously opposed the use of the soil but were overruled by the then secretary of the AWU Victorian branch, Mr Bruce Wilson, who negotiated a unilateral deal with Thiess. Mr Wilson resigned as union secretary last month.

The deal is expected to form part of a Victoria Police major fraud group investigation into the operations of the union's national construction branch.

The 1994 dispute centred on plans by Thiess to use about 115,000 cubic metres of contaminated soil from two sites in Footscray and Maribyrnong as fill in the construction of two overpasses and a stretch of the ring road in Laverton North.

The EPA yesterday confirmed that the soil was used on the site, between February and July 1994, with its approval and according to strict environmental guidelines.

While details of the peace deal between the union and Thiess were never publicly discussed, senior union officials were shocked when the company confirmed earlier this month that it paid the AWU Victorian branch $25,000 for the alleged study.

Mr Berger said he was amazed by the amount of the payment because no study had ever been organised or carried out. Given his position he would have known if a study was done, he said.

A former senior AWU official at the centre of the dispute was also adamant no study was carried out.

Mr Boyd said the payment was effectively hush money in return for letting the company use contaminated soil.

According to Mr Boyd, construction workers employed on the project may have been exposed to deadly contaminants. Mr Boyd also opposed the plan because it could set a dangerous precedent.

An EPA spokeswoman confirmed that another construction company, Leighton Contractors Pty Ltd, also received permission to use contaminated soil for road fill, in March this year.

Details of the payment emerged during a meeting between the national secretary of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (building division), Mr John Sutton, and senior Thiess officials on 4 September, in Sydney.

Mr Sutton said Thiess's national manager of human resources, Mr Paul Darrouzet, told him the company had made only one payment, of $25,000, to the rival AWU, which was ``in respect to contaminated soil (and) a joint study into road work".

Mr Darrouzet allegedly told Mr Sutton that the Victorian Trades Hall Council and Mr Berger approved of the deal and knew of the amount paid.

But in a letter to Thiess on 7 September, Mr Boyd demanded an apology, saying he ``did not know of, or participate in any way, in any exchange of money between Thiess and the AWU".

Thiess subsequently acknowledged the mistake, saying that all relevant payments to the AWU had been ``processed through our usual creditor's system, following the receipt of invoice".

The AWU's joint national secretary, Mr Ian Cambridge, denied any knowledge of the deal.

``It comes as a surprise," he said. ``We had no knowledge and it is just another matter, along with all the other matters, that will be thoroughly investigated" (by the Victoria Police major fraud group).

 

Bulk union memberships, sham advertising, false training invoices and bogus consultancies - this week at the Trade Union Royal Commission was just like re-living Bruce Wilson's reign at the AWU.  

Mr Stoljar opened Thursday's session by quizzing Bill Shorten on $100,000 annual payments from Thiess/John Holland.

Mr Stoljar to Shorten, “Is this a bogus invoice (below) claiming for work never done?”

Shorten:,“I would never be party to issuing bogus invoices, full stop.”

Mr Shorten said he expected the invoice for the back strain research would have been for a service that had “either been conducted or is going to be conducted”.

“I don’t recall (the research), but it would have been done if the invoice was issued,” he said.

Mr Stoljar said other evidence presented to the royal commission suggested the AWU did not conduct the research.

“These invoices are issued by my accounts department,” Mr Shorten said.

“I can’t say explicitly what was triggering them, but in terms of back strain, that is a huge issue in civil construction and heavy industry.

Stoljar, "I wasn't asking whether it was a huge issue. What I am asking you is in the period leading up to 18 January 2006, was research work done by the AWU Vic in relation to back strain?"

Shorten, "I can't say, I don't recall it, but I believe it would have been if the invoice is issued.".

Here's the invoice:

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And here's the request for invoice - check the detail!

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Nothing is off-limits to these people.

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