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Convictions from the union Royal Commission – was it worth it?

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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  1. New England Cocky

    “I would suggest that corporate and political malfeasance are far more widespread and infinitely more damaging.”

    Now AIMN, how about the details of the Banking Royal Commission and the subsequent charges against the banking executives who ran the scams and profiteering in the “polite” world of banking by screwing deposit holders and account holders.

    Perhaps a strict investigation of the expenses of NLP misgovernment politicians like Barnyard Joke would show that there are very lax standards held for politicians who demand very strict standards from unions.

    Anybody for a six month total claim exceeding $1 MILLION, that is about $6,000 PER DAY!!!!!

  2. Miriam English

    Our government is so clearly biased in favor of the wealthy against the workers and the unemployed! They don’t even try to hide it anymore. I really hope the insincere bastards get turfed out at the next election.

    I’ve said it many times before and I’ll say it again — if Labor get in at the next election they need to take Rupert Murdoch’s toys away from him, restore the laws against media concentration, and make the ABC truly independent from the government (perhaps by linking its funds permanently to GDP, and by making it illegal for the government to interfere in its operations). Rupert Murdoch is the single greatest threat to democracy in Australia, after the IPA and their pet political party, the LNP. If Labor fail to destroy Murdoch’s slimy influence then they will either have to turn right-wing, or expect to stay out of government… at least until Murdoch’s unprofitable media become too heavy a weight even for him.

  3. corvus boreus

    By-elections are coming up, and stray voters are being courted.

    Apparently, by polling, about 9 in 10 Australians favour the formation of a federal anti-corruption body (Fed ICAC now!).

    To these folks, the ALP offers; ‘if you vote in these local members, then, later on at the next general election, if other electorates vote in enough other ALP candidates to enable us to form a government, we promise to finally start making some efforts towards trying to implement a ‘Federal Integrity Commission’ (details forthcoming later)’.

    In reckoning that the ALP message on this subject might not be…immediately convincing, I could be doing a gross dis-service to the sophistication and attention span of the ‘average voter’, but then again, I thought that the 2013 ‘stop the boats, axe the tax’ campaign was too patently infantile to broadly resonate.

  4. Kaye Lee


    I have been writing about politics for years. I swore that Labor would not dump Julia Gillard. I was convinced that Abbott was unelectable. Even after Abbott showed what a fool he was, I couldn’t see how the Libs could dump him after Michaelia’s knifing speech etc – I thought they would wait till he lost in 2016. I also told everyone not to be alarmed about Trump, that it was just a branding exercise and no-one, including him, was genuinely trying to get him elected.

    I was wrong.

  5. corvus boreus

    Kaye Lee
    I guess that sometimes the key to avoiding disappointment is to lower your expectations.

  6. Miriam English

    Yeah, corvus boreus, it does make me wonder why Labor are so unenthusiastic about a federal ICAC… well, no, it doesn’t really. The only reason they’d drag their feet on such a thing is corruption.

    (Whenever I see the letters ICAC it always reminds me of ipecac — the emetic derived from ipecacuanha, used to induce vomiting after having consumed poison. The unpleasant experience is caused in the hope of saving the patient. It always seemed a fitting connection. [As an aside to my aside, ipecac is generally not recommended as treatment for poisoning nowadays for various reasons.])

  7. corvus boreus

    Words matter.
    Labor’s proposal (if we elect them) is to work towards establishing a ‘Federal Integrity Commission’.
    This term has a positive inflection, as it implies that the body would maintain current integrity, rather than containing a negative word like corruption, which implies that there might actually be some wrongdoings that need righting.
    Still (glass half-full), a diluted commitment is better than a denial of need.

  8. Kaye Lee

    How low can we go? Peter Dutton is given ultimate power and Gillian Triggs is sacked.

    My hope is that Bill is timing his run in announcing a commitment to a federal Integrity/corruption body of some description. And, as being discussed in Christian’s thread, the obvious necessity to increase Newstart. He campaigned well last time. I guess we have to be patient and hope he announces something substantive to compare to the Coalition’s endless CCTV cameras and football stadium upgrades and pretence that off-ramps and feasibility studies are the same as infrastructure spending.

    We already have a lot of reviews and recommendations from endless committees – a commitment to action is needed.

  9. Terence Mills

    The Jackson’s trial might not start until 2019 given the backlog of cases before Melbourne’s County Court.

    She has pleaded not guilty to 166 charges, comprising 18 counts of theft, 147 of obtaining a financial advantage by deception and one of obtaining property by deception.

    Prosecutors allege Ms Jackson either stole or misappropriated hundreds of thousands of dollars from the HSU between 2003 and 2011 to pay for her own personal flights, travel expenses and other non-work items, by using union-issued credit cards to pay, and then dishonestly claimed to the union her expenses were work related.

    As you have noted, Kaye, the civil action has already done the heavy lifting to establish the quantum of the misappropriations but for some reason the criminal trial is bogged down : I wonder why that would be, could it have anything to do with the fact that Jackson is an ‘associated entity’ of the Liberal party.

  10. Kaye Lee

    “We’ve had people like Kathy Jackson heroically, heroically, say that enough is enough, it’s all got to stop and I think the honest people inside the union movement, the honest people inside the Labor Party will welcome this royal commission”

    “Kathy Jackson is a brave decent woman and she is speaking up on behalf of 70,000 members.”

    “I think that Kathy Jackson has been a very credible whistleblower here. I think that it’s to the enormous discredit of some people in the labour movement that they are now trying to blacken her name.’’

    “The person I particularly want to comment on is Kathy Jackson. Kathy Jackson is a revolutionary, and revolutionaries … Revolutionaries are not always perfect. Revolutionaries sometimes have to cut corners and do things in order to bring about a result. But she will be remembered as a transforming union leader.”

  11. Terence Mills


    I assume that those bouquets were from Christopher Pyne :

    Revolutionaries sometimes have to cut corners just ask Louis Vuitton, Donatella Versace, Christian Dior and other revolutionaries that she patronised !

  12. Kaye Lee


    The first three were from Abbott, the last from Pyne.

  13. corvus boreus

    Of course, Abbott was the person who personally appointed Michael Lawler to be VP of Fair Work Australia, from which lofty role he began an affair with Kathy Jackson, then used his appointed official position to lobby and interfere in order to directly advance his lover’s interests, all the while sharing in the spoils of her rorting.
    When their perfidies were eventually uncovered, Lawler took an extended sickie at taxpayer expense before resigning to avoid having to explain his misconduct.
    That Tony Abbott is not being publicly questioned or held to account for his displays of (at best) piss poor judgement in this matter is a scathing indictment of just how far both journalistic standards and parliamentary accountability have fallen. .

  14. Kaye Lee

    Not to mention Nigel Hadgkiss….actually let’s mention him.

    This man was appointed by Michaelia Cash to be in charge of the “tough cop on the beat” to enforce the Fair Work Act in the building industry even though court proceedings had begun against him two months earlier for breaching the very act he was meant to police.

    Mr Hadgkiss resigned after admitting in December 2013 he directed that looming changes to right of entry laws — that were beneficial to unions and workers — not be published by the Fair Work Building and Construction agency.

    Justice Collier said “The consequence of his conduct was the dissemination by the FWBC — at his direction — of false information to the industry of which the FWBC was not only the regulator, but supposedly a trustworthy source of reliable information for industry participants. Making matters worse, the wrongdoing was exacerbated by the fact that right of entry is commonly a source of industrial dispute in a frequently volatile industrial environment.”

    Justice Collier found Mr Hadgkiss exhibited “a degree of carelessness and, indeed, somewhat arrogant ignorance, in respect of the truth of information concerning the right of entry of industry participants in an often charged industrial environment”.

    “His careless conduct resulted in incorrect information remaining on the FWBC website for several years, in apparent disregard of the reputational risk to the FWBC, and in circumstances where the Director promoted the supposed accuracy of that information in communications with industry and the general public,’’ she said.

    And to add insult to injury, Mr Hadgkiss was only fined $8,500 and taxpayers footed his $400,000 legal defence.

    Michaelia, announcing his resignation, praised him for “restoring the rule of law” – what a joke.

  15. Kaye Lee

    Then there is John Lloyd, a former Australian Building and Construction Commissioner and director of the IPA’s work reform and productivity unit, who Tony Abbott and Eric Abetz appointed to head the Australian Public Service Commission.

    He is responsible for upholding standards of integrity and conduct in the Australian Public Service, promoting its code of conduct, and can investigate allegations of misconduct by agency heads and other government employees.

    Mr Lloyd oversaw the public service commission as the Coalition government used new workplace bargaining rules that have been blamed for years of industrial turmoil between public servants and their employers.

    it was revealed at a Senate estimates hearing in October he sent an email to a member of the IPA with an attachment showing what he described as “generous” provisions in public service enterprise agreements.

    He has announced his early resignation seemingly to avoid an investigation into his close contact with the IPA.

    “Mr Lloyd was highly effective in ensuring the public service was a more efficient and effective body that taxpayers could have confidence in,” Senator Abetz said.

    “His diligent work assisted the government to reduce the size of government while ensuring a high calibre of service to the Australian public continued to be delivered.”

    Ya think?

  16. John Lord

    A high price to pay.

  17. Graeme

    LNP Govt. and the IPA are planting operatives and enacting laws across all facets of our federation in pursuit of their thousand year Reich. Dutton is a fascist criminal. This is a slow but effective coup against our democracy. So many restrictive changes. It will take very strong and determined leadership to save us. Silly monkey voters are letting it happen.

  18. Kaye Lee

    Trish, (hopefully continuing our conversation from the other thread),

    My criticism of what I consider clumsy tactics by Setka and the CFMEU at times is in no way an endorsement of the ABCC.

    In February 2016, before the DD election, I wrote an article titled A Bunch of Complete Crap (ABCC)

    A Bunch of Complete Crap (ABCC)

    In September 2017 I wrote The ABCC debacle

    The ABCC debacle

    I have mentioned it in several other articles and comments including this one.

    The CFMEU’s intimdatory tactics have cost the union a great deal of money – some of it justified, some of it definitely not. I absolutely agree that worker safety is a paramount issue which is why I get really angry when they pretend things are safety issues when they are actually trying to apply pressure to a contractor about something else entirely like an EBA.

  19. corvus boreus

    It feels like this site’s gone a bit toxic, so this one won’t be landing here for a while..
    Thank you for all you do for others by sleuthing down relevant information and articulating serious issues.
    It is deeply appreciated by many, myself not least amongst.
    Nolite te bastardes carborundorum

  20. Kaye Lee


    Don’t go. I learn so much stuff from you.

  21. Michael Taylor

    cb, you’re more appreciated than you’d think you are. I for one gain much delight in your style of humour.

    If the site’s gone toxic, it’s my job to bring it back.

  22. paul walter

    Worth it if you are a vicious control freak. Satisfies the desolate pathology driving their lives.

  23. corvus boreus

    Thank you for your words and deeds.

    I reckon the toxicity perceived stems from vipers nestled at your breast.
    Some of your authors, ones with editing rights, are deliberately disrupting other threads with general and personal abuse, accusations of cabal/cliques and occasionally throwing in a few semi-veiled threats just for kicks.
    (I also strongly suspect that some of the same are actively slagging off at this site on their own blogs and twitter/facebook).
    Witness the behaviors in comments following the recent article on newstart written by Mr Marx.
    Although it is just internet noise, I still do not appreciate some self-proclaimed Stalinist casting insane-sounding curses in my direction ( @ 24/7 6:19pm), or slinging similar towards some of the females who regularly post here.
    That kind of thing triggers trained adrenaline responses and violent reactive impulses, aspects within myself that I do not wish to cultivate, or bring to bear in what is supposed to be rational socio-political discussion..
    Good luck with restoring decency to these pages, what you have built is widely appreciated and, I think, desperately needed.

    That said, I’m still bowing out for a bit of a breather.
    I was not lying or joking when I opined that anti-social media is sending people insane, and I don’t need to catch more crazy.

    Go raibh maith agat,

  24. ajogrady

    All the biased, innuendo filled headlines that the L/NP did not have to pay for made it completely worth it to them. They understand that mud sticks. Why else would they be on a perpetual “Kill Bill” crusade.

  25. Mark Needham

    A federal RC into all politicians.

    Bring it on.
    Mark Needham

  26. David Bruce

    Sometimes I get the feeling that humanity is being driven into a fish trap, or an abattoir? I wonder if conversion to Judaism will help change that perception?

    Is the biggest threat to our survival coming from the Anglo-American permanent military/intelligence apparatus?
    For example British intelligence:

    planted UK-based MI6 (and CIA) agent Stefan Halper in the Trump campaign to be an informant;
    made the first claim, via their junior partners in Australia, that Russia had “hacked” Hillary Clinton’s email, the intelligence for which came from a curious operation involving Australian High Commissioner and former foreign minister Alexander Downer, an MI6 asset, that targeted minor Trump campaign official George Papadopoulos in London in May 2016 (Australia’s security agencies ASIO and ASIS are functionally branches of their British counterparts MI5 and SIS (MI6); according to investigative reporters Des Ball and Jeffrey Richelson in their 1985 book The Ties That Bind, “The relationship between ASIS and the SIS is so close that there has never been any need for written agreements or a formal exchange of liaison personnel. It is thus not surprising that ASIS officers continue to call the London headquarters of the SIS the ‘Head Office’ and the Melbourne headquarters of ASIS called itself the ‘Main Office’.” As Australia’s longest serving foreign minister, Alexander Downer was the formal boss of ASIS for 11 years, before going on to other MI6-connected jobs.);

    fabricated the salacious dossier on Trump and Russia using “ex”-MI6 officer Christopher Steele, which became the basis for the FBI opening an investigation on alleged Russian meddling, while high-level UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office operative Sir Andrew Wood, a former British ambassador to Moscow, peddled the dossier to senior Republican Party politician and virulent Russophobe Senator John McCain.

    These actions by British intelligence manufactured the Russia hysteria, which politicised US intelligence officials then turned into a full-blown witch hunt that has served to de-legitimise Trump’s victory, and shape the domestic political environment in the USA to make cooperation between Trump and Putin very difficult—as witnessed since the Helsinki meeting.

    Source: Citizens Electoral Council of Australia – Media Release Wednesday, 25 July 2018

  27. Miriam English

    David Bruce, didn’t they tell you that the tin foil hat focusses the rays instead of blocking it. 😀

    “Fabricated” the evidence against Trump????? Are you kidding?

    If you think Downer is an MI6 operative, boy have their standards dropped.

    The Citizens Electoral Council of Australia is a far right-wing bunch of conspiracy theory-loving facists associated with a nutter from USA, Lyndon LaRouche.

  28. Pingback: Defending The Indefensible: The Case For Reforming A Justice System That Fails Half The Population - New Matilda

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