By Terence Mills
Remember Nigel Hadgkiss? He was the bloke that Michaelia Cash put in charge of the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC). It was the ABCC legislation that acted as the catalyst for last year’s Turnbull initiated double-dissolution election.
Anyhow, it turned out that Nige’ – an ex copper – had been a bit naughty and he has admitted to recklessly misrepresenting union rights on Australian Building and Construction Commission posters and handbooks. He knowingly contravened the Fair Work Act by instructing staff to not publish legal changes to right-of-entry rules for unions. He made these admission as a result of legal action brought by the commission’s chief target, the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union.
Hadgkiss resigned from his $426,000-a-year job after conceding that he recklessly and intentionally misrepresented union rights to employers while he headed up the Fair Work office over a period of two years.
He breached the Fair Work Act by publishing website material that misrepresented the rights of union officials during entry to premises to meet workers. He failed to correct the material despite concerns being raised by his staff.
Michaelia Cash has defended him (and herself) throughout until it got too hard to do so and he has now been fined $8,500 for breaching the Fair Work Act. Well, to say that he has been fined is probably stretching the truth as you have to look to see who will be paying the fine: taxpayers will be paying the fine, that’s you and me.
But, as Michaelia will tell you she has done everything in her power to avoid this situation, to save you and me the cost of a $8,500 fine. In fact, Michaelia has fronted Nigel’s legal costs to the tune of $418,000. Well, that’s not quite true either. Michaelia won’t be paying the $418,000 legal fees and neither will Nigel and there are no prizes for identifying who will be paying. Yes, it’s the man and woman you see daily in the mirror.
Now, I don’t really care about Nigel Hadgkiss, although he sounds like a thoroughly unpleasant fellow and I have to wonder how he reached such an elevated position within a government instrumentality: but then, he is an ex-copper and we have seen how this has evidently assisted Dutton in his dark and dismal political career. Perhaps a blind hatred of unions [and refugees] is a qualification for government appointments nowadays?
I don’t really care about Michaelia Cash who it seems is a pathological liar spending her time as a minister of the crown engaging in subterfuge and dishonest duplicity and whilst we know that she was behind the AWU raids and the associated media circus she has gone to ground and, interestingly, she has refused to answer any Senate questions as she says the matter of the AWU raid is the subject of a criminal enquiry and thus sub-judice. A criminal enquiry, eh? I wonder how long that will take and whether convictions will follow?
What really gets me is that it is the Australian taxpayer who picks up the tab every time : it is we who get to pay for these indiscretions and I’ve no doubt that Nigel will retire now with a generous taxpayer funded retirement package. There remains an important ethical point here, it’s not just politics as normal. Here we have admitted and intentional wrong doing in public office by Hadgkiss but the penalty is paid by the community against whom he has offended. Is that justice?
Labor has called for an independent inquiry and has taken aim at Employment Minister Michaelia Cash for putting Mr Hadgkiss in charge of the ABCC last year even though he was at that point already under a legal cloud. We’ll see how far that goes!