For background on Dyson Heydon’s $80 million union-hunt TURC see here http://chriswhiteonline.org/2015/08/dyson-dump/
For those who didn’t hear Senator Stephen Conroy‘s speech exposing Dyson Heydon‘s full links to the Liberal Party in the Senate on Tuesday this week, from IA: Read here
“His family has a longstanding relationship with the Liberal party. His father had even acted as an advisor to the Liberal Menzies government. So Mr Abbott had his man: a respected lawyer, an ideological right-winger, and a man whose family had enjoyed successive generations of Liberal Party patronage.”
…three of these 25 who shared chambers with Justice Heydon have been awarded multimillion dollar contracts from the trade union royal commission, the most prominent of which, of course, is Jeremy Stoljar, who was appointed by Dyson Heydon as counsel assisting the royal commission. Mr Heydon knew that Stoljar would make a reliable deputy. They had long been friends. Heydon was such a keen supporter that he had gladly launched Stoljar’s book in 2011…. Jeremy Stoljar’s pockets have been well lined by the royal commission to the tune of $3.4 million.
“…Senator CONROY: While the taxpayers are wondering what value they are receiving from Justice Heydon and his lavishly paid buddies, Mr Abbott and the Liberal Party are getting what they paid for. The Heydon royal commission wantonly ignores the standards that have been established and upheld by royal commissions before it — accepting hearsay, refusing objections and cross-examinations, double standards for different witnesses and even providing detailed briefings for the media.
Dyson Heydon has overseen a royal commission totally failing principles of natural justice. ”
But Dyson Heydon’s bias and partisan ways were finally exposed by the revelation that he had agreed to address a Liberal Party fundraiser — an absolute slam-dunk case. His claims that he was unaware that the event was a political fundraiser simply do not stand up to scrutiny.
Here the former Minister for Employment Eric Abetz released the Interim Report of the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption. The Royal Commission has not found any corruption in the CFMEU. Instead they have made recommendations and findings regarding industrial disputes the union has been involved in.http://chriswhiteonline.org/2014/12/cfmeu-on-interim-union-report/
Now some responses to the TURC report.
ACTU: TURC a blatant political exercise http://www.theage.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/actu-dismisses-royal-commission-findings-as-a-blatant-political-exercise-20151230-glwtyn.html
Unions to fight Turnbull’s anti-union election http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2015/dec/31/unions-vow-to-fight-after-pm-says-industrial-relations-high-on-election-agenda
Van Balham The female bosses destroying the image of ‘union thugs’ forever
The problem that the Liberals have is that today’s union leader looks ever less like the vulgar caricatures of rough and potentially criminal men on which the conservative fear mongering depends. A rise in female leadership and the diversity of social backgrounds from which they come has delivered to the union movement a face that looks far more like Australia’s than the Coalition’s own cabinet. Here are some of the powerful union women destroying the Liberals’ “thug myth” forever.then 10 women leaders.
Why is no one questioning the TURC narrative? By Stephen Long ABC 22 Oct 2015 While the Trade Union Royal Commission has raised legitimate concerns about union governance, it’s extraordinary how weak some of the evidence is and how willing the media is to ignore counter-narratives, writes Stephen Long as he examines the non-reporting of the failure of “blackmail” charges against CFMEU Lomax involved in ordinary enterprise bargaining.http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-10-22/long-why-is-no-one-questioning-the-turc-narrative/6868102
The only surprise in Heydon’s trade union report is its lack of rhetorical flourish
“TURC calls for the state to be handed sweeping powers to veto and disqualify union officials, elected or otherwise, from holding any union position. For the CFMEU, it recommends parliament consider passing “special legislation” to immediately disqualify some current officials from holding office. The mere suggestion by the commission that the government be given the right to determine trade union leadership is extraordinary. If any such recommendation were to become law, Australia – already on the list of consistent violators of international labour standards because of its major restrictions on the right to strike – would graduate to the list of fully fledged rogue states alongside countries such as Nigeria, Guatemala and China.
Heydon calls for an across the board jump in penalties for “illegal” union activities. The report recommends that fines for industrial action taken without the Fair Work Commission’s approval increase from $10,800 for an individual to $36,000, and to $180,000 for an organisation. With penalties to apply to each apparent “offence”, fines could quickly mount to a size that would ruin an individual and cripple an organisation.
He also calls for the creation of new industrial action offences and a clarification that pickets are illegal industrial action subject to significant penalty. He also wants rules prohibiting unions from paying fines levied against members or officials.”
Royal commission proposes major attack despite its weak findings
17 January 2016 | Steph Price
Disgraced and crooked former Health Services Union official Kathy Jackson may well find extra charges added to her growing stock of legal problems. Jackson, though, was a one-time star witness of the commission, and not the scalp Heydon or the government wanted. Most of the referrals to police will go nowhere much, so flimsy are the claims of criminal malfeasance.
The rest of the referrals are to the Fair Work Commission and the construction industry regulator. They will consider whether particular union officials tried to coerce or induce people to join the union or breached various civil obligations under the laws regulating unions. From the government’s perspective, it all falls far short of the knockout blow it had hoped Heydon would deliver. …One of the most basic tools of union organising and the protection of safety standards – the right of union reps to enter a workplace – comes under particular attack by the commission. While Heydon expresses sympathy with the idea of scrapping union rights of entry entirely, he stops just short of this.
Instead, he recommends increasing the maximum fine for breaches of the right of entry provision of the Fair Work Act from $50,000 to $180,000. He wants the same fines to apply to breaches of the right of entry provisions of the health and safety laws. If union reps step into a workplace without the right permit, at the wrong time, with too many people, or walk into the wrong part of the site, they could be up for $180,000.
The report also recommends making it more difficult for unions to get and keep the permits they need to get on site and limiting unions’ ability to get into a workplace to investigate safety breaches.
Taken together, the recommendations are a plan to tighten significantly the regulatory strangulation of our unions’ organising and fighting capacity.
The question now is which of the recommendations the government will be able to get through parliament. While the findings of the royal commission haven’t given it all the political ammunition it wanted, the Australian ruling class is not yet giving up on this opportunity to make significant gains.
Draconian recommendations from the Trade Union Royal Commission will erode basic democratic rights without affecting corruption and may cost the Coalition another election, writes Macquarie University’s Eugene Schofield-Georgeson.
COMMISSIONER DYSON HEYDON’S 79 recommendations from the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance represent a steamroller approach to industrial democracy and basic human rights, such as the right to collectively bargain and the freedom of association.
Heydon referred 45 instances of possible corruption for further investigation and in a novel move for Royal Commissions, released details of “possible” offences by a number of senior unionists (mostly procedural or quasi-criminal in nature) after making his findings on the basis of pared-back rules of evidence.
If these recommendations become law, union-busting in the 21st century will resemble a dim likeness of the Combination Acts from early 19th century Britain. Like that legislation, these recommendations propose subjecting unions and officials to criminal as well as increased quasi-criminal sanctions.
Criminal offences will be further be subject to the lowest criminal standard of proof (“recklessness”) while the existing civil standard for quasi-criminal offences is also to be lowered. The offence provisions echo the “good faith” provisions under the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth), which create a murky and highly discretionary charge.
Furthermore, if the recommendations are taken up by the Turnbull Government, the State will be vested with increased powers to completely dismantle or “deregister” recalcitrant trade unions through a new Registered Organisations Commission.
In a contemporary twist to these old laws, the Royal Commission has recommended increased surveillance, monitoring and prosecution by a specialist union-busting police force as well as the compulsory professionalisation of working-class trade unions, by imposing strict character and educational requirements on union officials.
Infringements of certain procedural industrial laws – such as the payment of union dues, rights of entry, secondary boycotts and prohibited industrial action – will result in increased criminal and quasi-criminal penalties.
Senior officials will face criminal liability for infringements by stewards on the shop floor, followed by deregistration of the union for repeated or serious breaches. Even picketing will be considered an offence, rendered of the same criminal status as an unsolicited strike.
Statistics simply don’t support trade union royal commission claims of “widespread” corruption in the union movement.
In Queensland, for example (a major focus of the commission), one union official out of several hundred officials and organisers working in this state was referred for prosecution. Two corporate executives were also referred.
That single Queensland union referral is a long way from Commissioner Dyson Heydon’s claims of “deep-seated” corruption….It is a fabrication for Heydon to say “you can look at any unionised industry” and find “rich examples” of wrongdoing.
Unions could justifiably point to business and politics and ask why they are not facing similar recommendations and extraordinary penalties.
A federal body examining corruption would likely find examples throughout society, including the big banks and investment schemes, as well as political parties. The Independent Commission Against Corruption in NSW found numerous examples of wrongdoing by politicians.
Individuals in corporate Australia, government, Parliament and in registered organisations such as employer groups and trade unions who participate in corrupt behaviour should be appropriately exposed and penalised. All should be held accountable.
Unions and workers need to be part of the solution January 7, 2016 Tim Kennedy
It would be wrong for a government to legislate in a manner that restricts or prohibits what unions and employers should be allowed to bargain about in their workplaces. Heydon’s recommendations proposing that superannuation arrangements be removed from bargaining is just one example of this impediment to bargaining.
The recommendations, and now the government policy, seem to show a misunderstanding of what unions do. Unions play a crucial role in any proper functioning and free democracy. Unions are the means through which ordinary people are able to affect change in their lives, to influence political representatives to legislate for change and to transform Australia into a fairer country. There have been countless achievements that prove this such as annual leave, the eight-hour day, the minimum wage and superannuation.
Of course, there are many recommendations to emerge from the report that are about making unions more accountable and transparent, and these need to be taken seriously. Any recommendation that ensures we are better able to work for our members and give them the support they need to organise their workplaces, should be welcomed.
Unions are collective, membership based organisations and when individuals take advantage of any position of influence they have in a union there needs to be swift action.
South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon has commented that the royal commission offers an “opportunity to bring in other issues that are related to issues of corruption, not just in the union movement, but within corporate Australia”.
Senator Xenophon has long been a proponent of a federal Independent Commission Against Corruption, a body that in NSW has uncovered and punished many individuals who have abused their positions for personal gain. A federal ICAC is an idea that may have its time, now.
Individuals in corporate Australia, government, parliament and in registered organisations such as employer groups and trade unions, who participate in corrupt behaviour should be appropriately exposed and penalised. All of us should be held accountable to the Australian people.
If we are to take anything from the royal commission, it is that we need to ensure transparency and accountability across all sectors of Australian life – not just organised labour, but in corporations, too – and that we need to allow ordinary people to have a voice and agency in protecting our Australian democracy and belief in a “fair go”.
These things won’t be achieved through a wholesale adoption of Heydon’s recommendations, but rather through a wide-ranging discussion about working people and corruption in Australia. This is the challenge before Prime Minister Turnbull. It is one he cannot shirk.
We are ready to talk, because our members need organisations that support them and promote their interests.
A federal ICAC is an idea that may have its time now the royal commission has reported back.
Tim Kennedy is national secretary of the National Union of Workers.
We recognise that in any part of society there is potential for corruption, but using a Royal Commission to attack one section of the community does not address the need to stamp out corruption across all institutions, without bias.
The question for Malcolm Turnbull is whether he is can put the political approach of his predecessor behind him and take a wider view of the need to stamp out corruption across the board, rather than simply targeting unions. A test of his ability to do so will be his willingness to embrace a permanent independent corruption commission.
Greens support national Corruption body http://lee-rhiannon.greensmps.org.au/content/media-releases/greens-support-union-call-federal-anti-corruption-body-time-pm-step
The Trade Union Royal Commission—a right royal union bashing 21 January 2016 Solidarity
One of Heydon’s targets is union officials’ right of entry to workplaces. The former High Court judge is outraged that the right of entry is used “as a means to apply industrial pressure and control worksites.”
The right of entry offends his idea of bosses’ property rights as well. He says, “There is much to be said for the abolition of rights of entry, if only because they give such great powers against private landowners, and because they have been so widely abused.”
He then goes on to recommend that the penalty for individual officials breaking right of entry rules be increased from $10,000 to $180,000.
Heydon also proposes law changes to “oblige officials to leave work sites when inspectors are present and investigating possible breaches of industrial or work health and safety laws.”
Although Heydon concludes “abolishing it per se is too radical”, he makes it clear that he would also like to abolish “pattern bargaining” in the construction industry, that is, the practice of enforcing common pay and conditions on all contractors. In the end, he says he will leave it to the Fair Work Act to restrict the unions’ bargaining in this way. But it is a nod and a wink to Turnbull and the bosses.
The Royal Commission also wants to curb enterprise bargaining agreements stipulating industry superannuation funds. In the case of the CFMEU he says “large financial benefits that flow to the CFMEU under pattern enterprise agreements.”
This is not true. What bothers Heydon and Turnbull is that industry funds have unions represented on their boards, and their mates in the financial sector can’t get their hands on union members’ money.
More to come
The recommendations of the Royal Commission are about shackling the unions in more red tape, more regulation and anti-union legislation.Turnbull says he will take the issue of union reform to the next election. “And,” he says, “We will be going to the members of the unions and we will be saying to them we want you to get a fair deal.” But the idea that Turnbull and the Coalition want workers to have a fair deal is a joke.
The Productivity Commission has already flagged cuts to penalty rates for all hospitality, retail and tourism workers.
The government plans to introduce legislation in February to re-establish the Australian Building and Construction Commission to police the construction industry.
The fight can’t be left to Parliament. In August last year, the anti-union legislation lost in the Senate by just one vote. To beat back Turnbull’s offensive, we will need an industrial campaign of strikes and demonstrations.”
Deaths on construction sites continue that TURC fails to address: this is happening This story is heartbreaking. This should not have happened. The union should have been allowed on site the first two times when serious safety problems caused near misses. You can’t deny the union their legal right to protect workers and then be surprised when awful things like this happen.
What are state and federal government going to do about it? Nothing.
“There is no evidence of systemic, corrupt conduct in the union movement. But between 2009 and 2013, 837 workers in the industries investigated by this Royal Commissioner have died doing their job.” Read here https://www.greenleft.org.au/node/60846
Geelong Trades Hall Council Secretary and Socialist Alliance industrial relations spokesperson Tim Gooden told Green Left Weekly: “The final report of the Royal Commission is a complete stitch-up of the union movement, designed to prepare the way for an all-out attack on union rights and workers’ conditions in 2016, in the lead-up to the federal election.
“The commission’s report is a blatantly political document, which exaggerates the level of corruption in the unions and blames union officials for just doing their job.”
“While any individual cases of corruption by union officials cannot be tolerated by the movement, it is up to the members to hold their leaders to account — not some jumped-up retired judge, who used up tens of millions of tax-payers’ dollars over two years, at the behest of the big business-backed Coalition government, to come up with very little against the great bulk of union officials and delegates.
“Dyson Heydon is a Coalition front-man, as shown by his agreement to speak at a Liberal Party fund-raising dinner last year. No one should be surprised that the report was released during the media dead period just before New Year’s Eve, when it would only receive minimal public and journalistic scrutiny. Most of the report was not released and what there is consists of untested allegations.
“Nevertheless, the attacks on union rights prefigured in the royal commission report, together with the Productivity Commission report released just days earlier, which recommends cuts in weekend penalty rates and other threats to employee conditions, reveal that the Turnbull government, backed to the hilt by the business class, is planning an all-out assault on workers’ and union rights as a key part of its re-election strategy.
“This requires an urgent and strong response from the union movement. The ACTU has called a ‘National Leadership Forum’ in the first week of February in Melbourne. Affiliated unions should call for discussion of a mass reply to these looming attacks by the Coalition and big business to be put high on the agenda of that meeting and not let the ‘re-elect the ALP’ strategy dominate the discussion.
“We need a vigorous community campaign, backed up by rallies and if necessary industrial action, to defend the rights of unions and working people. This campaign needs to be even bigger than the Your Rights At Work campaign, which effectively brought down the Howard government in 2007.”
ACTU national secretary Dave Oliver said: “This Royal Commission was a biased and politically motivated exercise from the start. It was always about prosecuting an ideological agenda to cut workplace conditions. “The release of this report, just a week after the Productivity Commission recommended slashing penalty rates, shows this government’s real intention is to slash living standards for working families.
“I reject any assertion of widespread, unlawful corrupt conduct. There is no evidence of systemic, corrupt conduct in the union movement. But between 2009 and 2013, 837 workers in the industries investigated by this Royal Commissioner have died doing their job. “We are very concerned some recommendations will make it harder for workers to raise safety concerns in their workplaces.”
Dave Noonan, national construction secretary of the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), said if the Turnbull government was serious about rooting out rorters, rogues and crooks, the Liberal Party would be a good place to start. He said any matters of substance in the report could easily have been dealt with using existing mechanisms such as the Federal Police. “In the construction industry there are plenty of real issues that need investigating. Safety is at an all-time low. Fatalities and accidents continue as employers cut corners and avoid their legal responsibilities.
“Phoenixing [where a business collapses, owing creditors, including workers, large amounts of money, only to rise from the ashes under a new name and free of debt] is hurting small businesses and workers as companies take advantage of legal loopholes to avoid paying debts, taxes and wages.
“The focus of the Turnbull government should be on these issues as well as investigating the return of black lung in the mining industry and doing something about the use of flag of convenience ships to ply the seagoing trade between Australian ports.”
Here is a TURC summary from WorkPlace Express:
The Heydon Royal Commission has recommended that the Turnbull Government introduce special legislation to disqualify officers of the CFMEU who are deemed by Parliament to be not to be fit and proper persons, while stopping short of recommending the union’s deregistration.
The inquiry’s final report, released yesterday, argues that unions should have to disclose any payments or commissions that will be paid by employers before workers vote on agreements, with officials also required to disclose “material personal interests”.
It has called for a broader crackdown on unions, including the creation of a Registered Organisations Commission, which would be allowed to investigate criminal conduct, and the reintroduction of the ABCC.
It makes no findings against current Labor Opposition leader and former AWU national secretary Bill Shorten, or against former Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
However, Attorney-General George Brandis said the report recommended that Shorten’s old union, the AWU, be referred for criminal investigation.
“It is notable that, for most of the period under scrutiny, Mr Shorten led the AWU,” he said.
The report recommends some former union official be investigated by police for possible criminal offences — including the ex-HSU national secretary Kathy Jackson and ex-AWU Victorian branch secretary Cesar Melhem — along with a number of companies and executives.
Bigger role for organisations regulator, new compliance officer within unions
The report recommends the new ROC take over the role of the Fair Work Commission’s general manager, while requiring audited statements from unions on loans, grants and donations; remuneration of officers; and credit card expenditure.
A new position of financial compliance officer should be created within unions that is “separate and independent” from the secretary, with a statutory obligation to report “any reasonably suspected breaches” to the committee of management.
Heydon: Misconduct exposed not the small tip of enormous iceberg
The Royal Commissioner, Dyson Heydon, says in the report’s introduction that the two-year, $46 million inquiry found “widespread misconduct” in a wide variety of unions and industries.
“Those responsible have ranged in seniority from the most junior levels to the most senior,” Mr Heydon wrote. “Many state secretaries have been involved.”
“These aberrations cannot be regarded as isolated. They are not the work of a few rogue unions, or a few rogue officials. The misconduct exhibits great variety. It is widespread. It is deep-seated.
“Nor can the list be regarded as complete. It would be utterly naïve to think that what has been uncovered is anything other than the small tip of an enormous iceberg.
“But it is clear that in many parts of the world constituted by Australian trade union officials, there is room for louts, thugs, bullies, thieves, perjurers, those who threaten violence, errant fiduciaries and organisers of boycotts.”
Coalition will legislate change: PM
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull argued that the report’s findings are a challenge for Shorten and Labor because the suggested changes would produce a stronger union movement.
“This report uncovers practices which have been long known to exist,” he said.
“It is a real watershed moment for the labour movement.”
The prime minister said the government has an “absolutely unwavering” commitment to change and it will take them to next election if they are blocked.
Employment Minister Michaelia Cash argued the report made clear the existing Registered Organisations Bill that has been rejected three times in the Senate did not go far enough.
Senator Cash said she will strengthen the Bill would to incorporate the report’s recommendations, while legislation to re-establish the ABCC will be re-introduced in the first parliamentary sitting week next year, with a view to passing it by the end of March.
An appendix to the report says the inquiry has referred 97 individuals and organisations.Attorney-General Brandis said this involved 48 alleged criminal matters and 45 civil matters. He said the operation of the Commonwealth-led police taskforce, Heracles, would be extended to December next year.
A working group of 10 Commonwealth agencies would be led by the Department of Employment — and would include the Australian Crime Commission, ASIC the ACCC and the ATO — would also be established.
The final report also recommends:
beefing-up protection for whistle blowers (see recommendations 18 to 22);
amending s190 of the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act to prohibit an organisation or branch using its property or resources to help a candidate in an election for office in any registered organisation or branch
increasing substantially the civil penalties for breaches of the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act;
amending s290A of Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act to impose criminal liability on officials or branches who dishonestly or recklessly breach sections 286 to s288;
outlawing unions paying the fines officials for such breaches;
requiring detailed disclosure of unions’ loans, grants and donations;
amending the Fair Work Act 2009 to make it a criminal offence for an employer to provide, offer or promise to provide any payment or benefit to an employee organisation or its officials;
mandating the registration of election or fighting funds, with a separate bank account for election donations;
obliging greater disclosure of on whether unions receive income from employee insurance products; and
restricting right of entry, including for safety purposes.
The report has a confidential sixth-volume that has not been released.
Attacking unions isn’t a substitute for good policy formulation January 15, 2016 Nick Dyrenfurth
Demonising unions and targeting the Opposition Leader threatens to derail Malcolm Turnbull’s “new politics” narrative.
Royal commission changes an unfair burden on unions, warns academic
A labour law expert says the recommendations are poorly thought through and would hurt union officials more than company directorshttp://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2016/jan/11/royal-commission-changes-an-unfair-burden-on-unions-warns-academic
Australia’s long history of union bashing
Dr Benjamin Thomas Jones 26 November 2015, 2:10pm Attending the recent launch of ‘Murder At Tottenham’ about the Australian Wobblies in 1916 and the government’s heavy-handed approach to crushing the union movement, Dr Benjamin T. Jones was struck by the parallels between the anti-union witch hunt of the Sydney Twelve and the TURC.
Abbott’s – and now Turnbull’s – willingness to use the apparatus of the state to demonise unionism and the complicity of the mainstream press is extraordinary but far from unprecedented. Nearly a century ago, Australian workers who advocated unionism, fought for better conditions, and protested the squalid waste of human life in World War I also faced the fury of the state. https://independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/australias-long-history-of-union-bashing,8420
Draconian recommendations from the Trade Union Royal Commission will erode basic democratic rights without affecting corruption and may cost the Coalition another election, writes Macquarie University’s Eugene Schofield-Georgeson.