In May, Craig Laundy, the Minister for Small and Family Business, the Workplace and Deregulation (what a title), stated that there had been nine criminal convictions and three civil penalties resulting from the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption.
In response to my request for details, he cited the following cases.
The first involved Derrick Belan, the former head of the National Union of Workers NSW, who was running a fake invoicing scam with his niece and a mate and using union credit cards for personal benefit. He has been sentenced to four years in jail after being found guilty of defrauding his union of more than $650,000.
Belan’s niece, union bookkeeper Danielle O’Brien, received a 13-month custodial sentence, most likely in home detention, for defrauding the union of more than $300,000.
CMS IT chief executive Angelo Milena was ordered to do nine months’ community service work after he pleaded guilty to conspiring with Belan and his niece to cause loss to the NUW NSW of more than $220,000 over five years.
The second case involved CFMEU officials Luke Collier and Kane Pearson who were both convicted for obstructing a Commonwealth official.
Construction union organiser Luke Collier, when FWBC inspectors came to Barangaroo during a CFMEU blockade, grabbed a megaphone to play the chorus of the song Who Let the Dogs Out and later called one inspector “a f—ing grub” and “lower than a paedophile.” He named one of the inspectors and proceeded to read out his phone number on the loud hailer, telling workers “why don’t you give him a call and tell him what you think.” The inspector also alleged that when he turned his back, Mr Collier said to him “do you think your phone number’s the only thing I’ve got?” Collier was placed on a two-year good behaviour bond and fined $1000.
CFMEU Queensland assistant secretary Kane Pearson was fined $3200 for pulling a punch on one FWBC inspector and saying “if you c—s think you are going on site, I will close the site down.”
The third case involved two Cbus superannuation advisors giving false and misleading evidence to the RC over claims they gave the CFMEU the names and personal details of more than 300 members when the union was embroiled in a national dispute with Lis-Con Concrete Constructions over its failure to make superannuation payments to workers.
Maria Butera and Lisa Zanatta received suspended jail terms of 14 and 13 months respectively, with both women released to serve good-behaviour periods of 22 and 24 months.
The fourth criminal case saw union organiser for the ACT branch of the CFMEU, Fihi Kivalu, charged with blackmailing a contractor. He was paid about $70,000 after threatening to otherwise put formwork contractor Elias Taleb out of business. Mr Kivalu pleaded guilty and was given a three-year suspended sentence. Tuungafasi Manase, 30, pleaded guilty to perjury after he denied, while under oath, writing a list of alleged bribes that was handed to contractor Elias Taleb. He was sentenced to six months’ jail for lying.
Two of the civil penalties relate to James McGiveron and Richard Burton, both former branch secretaries of the WA Transport Workers’ Union, who had benefited themselves at the cost of their union.
The duo engineered a situation where they both received a luxury vehicle for personal use, and one a generous severance payout after agreeing to step down from the top job. Mr Burton also used a union credit card to pay for a lavish dinner at Perth’s high-end Rockpool restaurant at a cost of almost $500 and spent $1,634 for himself, his wife and 10 mates to attend the 2013 September grand final. The Federal Court ordered Mr McGiveron pay $11,000 and Mr Burton $27,300.
It should be noted that it was the TWU who uncovered the breach and referred it first to a retired independent judicial officer and then to both the FWC and the Royal Commission.
The third civil penalty was for the TWU failing to keep an accurate register of its members.
After spending endless time in parliament, $46 million on the RC, and unknown millions more on a dedicated police task force and lots of court cases, several of which have been abandoned, they have convicted one guy and a couple of accomplices for running a racket, one for taking kickbacks, two foul-mouthed bullies, two people who passed on information to help inform a union case about unpaid super, and one guy who lied about writing a list.
The two civil convictions sounded a lot like what politicians feel entitled to do. Perhaps they should all stop taking money for trips to the football and lavish dinners and cars for personal use.
Mr Laundy said there are multiple other matters currently before the courts. Presumably one of those is Kathy Jackson who the unions successfully prosecuted civilly some time ago but have not, to my knowledge, received any of the $1.4 million they were awarded pending the completion of the criminal court case. Ms Jackson has declared bankruptcy but I’m not sure how any of that is going. No-one seems to mention Kathy anymore.
As workplace lawyer Peter Punch said in a presentation to the Industrial Relations Society of New South Wales in April 2016, “the Commission’s findings disclose serious misconduct by certain persons within certain parts of certain major trade unions at various times. I have no doubt that a Royal Commission into criminal behaviour in corporations would end up with similar results. But corporations do not carry the “political baggage” that trade unions do.”
That was before the Banking Royal Commission, of course.
Dyson Heydon’s report said “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.”
Whilst it is clear that some union branches needed to improve their record keeping, and there were a few people doing the wrong thing, I would suggest that corporate and political malfeasance are far more widespread and infinitely more damaging.
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