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Hugh Morgan's important evidence about Bruce Wilson and his power over Carmen Lawrence's government

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This is important background in helping to prepare for the events of the next couple of weeks.

Just before the commencement of this parliament, Prime Minister Scott Morrison gave a speech in Perth including these fine thoughts.

One particular area where it’s essential to get regulation right is to protect investment from the impact of militant unions, that would have been given free reign under a Labor Government if elected six weeks ago.

Events since then with the CFMMEU in full R18 rated technicolour have only underlined the wisdom of the Australian people in rejecting going down that path.

Labor does not run the unions in Australia, the unions - through their money from member’s indentured fees and union super funds, their numbers in their factions and their armies on the ground at elections, run modern Labor.

It is a very far cry from the balanced relationship of the Hawke-Crean-Kelty alliance of the past.

Our Government is committed to enforcing the rule of law on Australian work sites.  All Australian businesses have the right to expect that they can go about their work without being subject to bullying and disruption.

When we’re back in Parliament next week, another of our priorities is to introduce laws to give greater powers to deal with registered organisations and officials who regularly break the law, prohibit officials who are not fit and proper persons from holding office, and stop the rorting of worker entitlement funds. All measures Labor resisted during our last parliamentary term.

Like you, our Government believes in cooperative workplaces.

In his new capacity as Minister for Industrial Relations, I am asking Christian Porter to take a fresh look at how the system is operating and where there may be impediments to shared gains for employers and employees.  

Any changes in this area must be evidence-based, protect the rights and entitlements of workers and have clear gains for the economy and for working Australians.

We would expect business organisations such as yours to build the evidence for change and help bring the community along with you too.

The following is an extract from a story written by Hedley Thomas and me an published in The Australian in March 2014.

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Hugh Morgan, the former chief executive of the Western Mining Corporation, tells Inquirer about Wilson’s influence on the then government and on Lawrence.

Morgan, a strong Liberal Party backer and union critic, says he will repeat his account of a remarkable meeting with Lawrence to the royal commission if it seeks his evidence.

“In the early 90s at WMC we had very poor productivity and very poor industrial relations on site,” Morgan says.

“The union leader of this workforce was Bruce Wilson. He was a pied piper, and he was very good on the stump at making people feel unhappy.

“As a consequence of our unsatisfactory industrial situation, I went to see Carmen Lawrence about the matter. Bruce had done everything he could to avoid signing an agreement. But finally, we got him to sign.

“I went to Carmen Lawrence and she said to me very directly, ‘Hugh, I cannot fulfil that because Bruce has informed me that if I go ahead with that agreement, he will ensure that I do not get my preselection for the next election.’

“I was in her office. I did not think that what she told me was false. I took it as her being very truthful with me. She was clearly embarrassed and upset.

“Carmen Lawrence was always very approachable and polite to me. She understood our problems. And she said, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t do it - Wilson has threatened to take away my preselection, and you have to understand that’s why I can’t do this.’

“I was staggered. She was concerned about it. And I thought, ‘This is a lost cause here with this government.’

“I thought from her demeanour that this (threat by Wilson) had shocked her. In other words, it was not a case of ‘he does this to me every day’.

“I took it as an unusually aggressive but powerful statement from the union head that had concerned the premier in an unusual manner. Wilson was a very forceful and influential individual, remarkably so. There was no question in my mind, she was concerned. This was not something of her making or of her imagination. It seems remarkable that you can threaten the preselection of a premier. I think it was an illustration of the worst circumstances in which the trade union movement and the Labor Party were locked together.

“My observation is that the trade union movement believes that it is not only their right but their mission to exert whatever power it has over Labor members of parliament because the Labor Party is the child of the trade union movement. Those members of parliament are the union’s representatives - the union movement put them there.”

Next week you will see this matter brought back to life in the Australian Parliament, the courts and elsewhere.

Every touch leaves its trace.