(Bill Ludwig with Bill Shorten - both men were keen to conceal bulk membership payments to the AWU - a practice which inflated the AWU's numbers and coffers, increasing Ludwig's control over the Labor Party)
There's something seriously wrong with Australia and our priorities.
Only yesterday I published a quote from Bill Leak,
"Being able to see the truth isn’t regarded as important any more.”
Apparently neither is telling it. Even under oath.
The Federal Parliament sent a shocking message when it excused Craig Thomson's hour long farrago of lies.
Likewise its failure to act on Gillard's deceptions.
Today I can add another example of the way we devalue the truth.
On Tuesday 19 February 2002 Bill SHORTEN appeared before the Cole Royal Commission and gave evidence on oath. He was extensively quizzed about whether or not the AWU had received any bulk union membership payments. He denied the AWU received or solicited such payments and said he was unaware of the AWU ever receiving money from an employer without corresponding membership application signed by individual applicants.
Dino Strano started Winslow Constructions in 1985 and has been the sole owner since 1996. He gave sworn evidence to the Heydon Royal Commission that he'd been making bulk payments without signed membership forms since the mid 1990s. He named Shorten as one of the union officials with whom he negotiated the payments.
On 6 July last year I reported the matter to the Australian Federal Police (my report is at the foot of this post).
On 1 August last year the AFP wrote to say my report had been sent to the "relevant area" for assessment.
On 8 February this year I followed up on the report:
From: Michael Smith [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Wednesday, 8 February 2017 4:47 PM
Subject: Fwd: ROYAL COMMISSIONS ACT 1902 - SECT 6H False or misleading evidence [SEC=UNCLASSIFIED]
Thank you for your acknowledgement of my report regarding an apparent contravention of the ROYAL COMMISSIONS ACT 1902 - SECT 6H False or misleading evidence.
May I ask please for the crime report reference number?
What was the result of the assessment conducted by the "relevant area"?
And this morning the AFP sent me this - remarkably similar to the last response I received from Victoria Police regarding the Gillard matter.
Perjury is a very serious offence.
For the alternative prime minister it should be even more serious.
I take no joy in reporting things like this - but having gone to the trouble of compiling a comprehensive report with the evidence laid out it's galling to be treated like a pain in the arse by the AFP. I am the complainant - but you wouldn't think so.
Lying under oath affects us all. But that is apparently of little concern to the contemporary Australian justice system.
I will lodge an FOI application and I will keep you posted on its progress.
It shouldn't have to be this way!
Here's a copy of my original report.
From: Michael Smith [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Wednesday, 6 July 2016 10:01 AM
Subject: ROYAL COMMISSIONS ACT 1902 - SECT 6H False or misleading evidence
Commissioner Andrew Colvin APM OAM
Australian Federal Police
Edmund Barton Building, Kings Avenue,
Barton ACT 2600
On 29 August 2001, the Governor-General issued Commonwealth Letters Patent pursuant to the Royal Commissions Act 1902 appointing The Honourable Justice Terence Cole RFD QC as a Royal Commission and directing him to inquire into certain matters relating to the building and construction industry.
On Tuesday 19 February 2002 William Richard SHORTEN was called to appear before the Royal Commission to give oral evidence.
At 11.05AM on 19 February 2002 SHORTEN was sworn on his oath before the Commissioner.
He remained on his oath before the Commission until 4PM that day when he was released and required to re-appear the following morning.
SHORTEN was examined by Counsel Assisting the Royal Commission Mr Tracey. Mr Bromberg of Counsel appeared for SHORTEN. A transcript of his examination under oath is here.
Relevantly, SHORTEN gave extensive oral evidence about bulk union membership payments from employers. He denied that the AWU received or solicited such payments. He told the Commission he was unaware of the Australian Workers’ Union receiving money from any employer purporting to be a payment for union membership where that payment was made in the absence of corresponding membership applications signed by individual prospective members.
On 3 June 2015 Mr Dino Strano, the managing director of Winslow Constructions appeared in answer to a Summons before the Heydon Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption. He gave oral evidence on his oath.
He stated that he started Winslow Constructions in 1985 and has been the sole owner since 1996.
Senior Counsel Assisting the Commission examined Mr Strano, the transcript is here. Relevantly Mr Strano gave evidence that he had been making bulk payments to the AWU, sometimes concealed as payments for training or OH&S or otherwise. Where those payments were for bulk union memberships they were made without the consent or application for memberships from individual workers. He named SHORTEN as one of the AWU officials he made the arrangements with.
Have you been paying false invoices raised by the AWU? Yes.
The invoices show amounts for training and OH&S, what are they actually for? Membership.
Aside from admin and others, your workforce is AWU? Yes.
Mr Strano said that his workers didn't decide to join the AWU, rather it was Mr Strano in a combination with senior officers of the AWU who jointly agreed to a scheme whereby payments were made by Winslow Constructions direct to the AWU, purporting to be for union memberships but without the consent or knowledge of the workers who were purported to have made membership applications.
So how long has Winslow been paying the AWU this way?
How long has Winslow had a relationship with the AWU?
It goes back to somewhere around the mid 1990s.
That's the practice, though, of paying for union membership?
Because one problem with paying for union membership, if the employer does it, is that it means that workers aren't able to choose freely which union to join - is that one of the reasons?
Well, what was the reason?
Well, the reason - I have to go back to the 1990s. I had to - you know, being in construction in Victoria you had to choose - you know, the danger was that there was a certain union that is very hard to deal with, and back then, in the 1990s, I decided to try and, you know, have my employees in with the one union that had the coverage over the sort of work that we were doing, and that was the AWU which covered the green field civil construction work. And that's the genesis of it all, back then. And at the end of the day, we paid the membership, the guys got the benefit of being well represented and it enabled our company to have certain degree of stability. Our blokes have got permanent employment. It's not like most other construction companies that have casualised workforces. Our guys - I have guys that have been with the company 20 years, 15, 25 years. They have continuity of work, they have job security, and it has been a success.
When you say there was a union that was hard to deal with, you mean the CFMEU?
And is this the position: back in the 1990s you made a decision that you wished to have Winslow associated with the AWU?
Mr Strano names SHORTEN as having dealt with him regarding these payments.
Who did you deal with after that?
There's been a variety of people from, you know, Bill Shorten, Peter Smoljko, Cesar and various organisers the years, yes.
When did the practice stop?
Two years ago.
Why did it stop?
Well, it stopped because when the Liberal Government came in in Victoria they set up a Code Compliance Unit, and I had a number of visits by officers from Code Compliance. We had some of our sites visited that were Victorian Government jobs, and then I said - this practice of paying for membership, I decided to get - in view of the new regime and the new compliance that was required to meet the Code Compliance Unit, I sought legal advice, and the legal advice came back that, "We suggest that you stop the practice", and I took the legal advice and stopped that practice.
REFERRAL TO AUSTRALIAN FEDERAL POLICE
In light of the evidence of Mr Strano, I refer the matter of the sworn evidence of William Richard SHORTEN given to Royal Commissioner Cole on 19 February 2002 to the Australian Federal Police for investigation as to whether SHORTEN knowingly gave false or misleading evidence in contravention of Section 6H of the Royal Commissions Act 1902.