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Tag Archives: Dyson Heydon

Politicians want unions to be accountable?

Dyson Heydon and Tony Abbott want union officials to be held as accountable as company directors. Personally I would like company directors also held to a higher standard and I would like to see our politicians held to the same transparency and accountability.

After all, what is the difference between a politician claiming entitlements for dubious expenses and a union official, or a party executive, using a credit card for same? What is the difference between a company director lying to shareholders, or a union official lying to members, and a politician lying to the electorate?

Government funds are our money. Citizens are the ones who entrusted their taxes to the government to be spent in our best interests – we are the members.

Abbott talks about deals and kickbacks between unions and employers – how about the deals between politicians and big business?

John Howard misled the parliament over meetings he had held with ethanol producer Manildra’s boss – massive Liberal Party donor Dick Honan. It was eventually proved that the meetings did occur, and three weeks later the government increased trade penalties against a Brazilian ethanol producer.

Peter Costello, the Treasurer, appointed Liberal Party megadonor Robert Gerard to the Reserve Bank board despite being told by Mr Gerard that he was involved in a 14-year-long tax evasion dispute with the Australian Taxation Office.

Peter Reith was appointed as a consultant to defence contractor Tenix immediately after resigning as defence minister.

Health minister Michael Wooldridge signed a $5 million building deal for the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and days later, after resigning as health minister, was employed by the college as a consultant.

It was the appointment of Alexander Downer as an adviser to Woodside Petroleum in his years after politics that caused a former ASIS operator to blow the whistle on the bugging of the East Timor parliamentary offices. His is one of the passports that has been confiscated by the fearless Brandis and Bishop team who are keeping us safe from terrorism….and scrutiny.

Look at the members of Joe Hockey’s North Sydney Forum and then consider the laws that have been revoked and enacted and proposed since the Coalition came to office.

Today we hear that the government are advertising for new board members for the NDIS.

Laura Tingle, in an article headlined National Disability Insurance Scheme board discovers their jobs are being advertised by reading the newspaper,writes:

“Today’s effort from Tony Abbott is just the latest attempt to erode the voice, advocacy and support for people with disability. Instead of getting on with the rollout of this transformative scheme, Tony Abbott is focussed on getting jobs for his mates in big business.”

When Labor and the unions rightly point out that the China Free Trade Agreement does not explicitly require mandatory labour market testing, they are labelled as racist xenophobes and told to get out of the way, despite both unions and the Labor Party being largely in favour of the agreement. Questions are met with hysterical hyperbole from a government who sees any criticism or concern as an attack that must be shot down along with the questioner.

To be clear here, these are the exact words in the China–Australia Free Trade Agreement that the Coalition government has negotiated. They cover all Chinese nationals in the standard 457 visa program for skilled workers and “installers and servicers” of machinery and equipment on shorter-term 400 visas.

Paragraph 3 of Article 10.4: Grant of Temporary Entry states that Australia shall not:

  1. a) Impose or maintain any limitations on the total number of visas to be granted to natural persons of the other party: or
  2. b) Require labour-market testing, economic needs testing or other procedures of similar effect as a condition for temporary entry.

The Age gives a very good explanation of how Andrew Robb is misleading us.

If the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement is implemented as it stands, the Australian government will give up the right to require labour-market testing for all Chinese nationals sponsored for standard 457 visas and “installers and servicers” on 400 visas. It will also give up the right to put any cap on the number of 457 or 400 visas.

The government has negotiated two documents: one is the free trade agreement and the other is a memorandum of understanding concerning an Investment Facilitation Agreement (IFA) for infrastructure projects. The latter is not part of the free trade agreement.

The memorandum of understanding includes provisions similar to Labour’s Enterprise Migration Agreements, none of which were ever implemented. Under these provisions employers on mining construction mega-projects could sponsor semi-skilled foreign workers and skilled workers with lower English language than under the regular 457 visa regulations. These “concessional” 457 workers were additional to the standard skilled 457 workers on these projects.

The memorandum on IFAs accompanying the free trade agreement says the Australian government may require labour-market testing by direct employers on the infrastructure projects before hiring these concessional semi-skilled and skilled 457 visa workers.

In late July the government said all direct employers on IFA projects would have to undertake a version of “labour-market testing”, but only for the concessional Chinese 457 visa workers (not mainstream skilled 457s or 400 visa workers).

To reiterate then, under the free trade agreement, labour-market testing will not be required for Chinese nationals sponsored by Chinese or any other enterprise legally established in Australia for all mainstream 457 visas, and all 400 visas used by Chinese “installers and servicers”.

So, the only Chinese workers who would be labour-market tested are the concessional 457 visa workers on the infrastructure projects. This is because the treaty provision takes precedence over Australian legislation.

The IFA also sets a very low bar for Chinese worker access to concessional 457 visas on infrastructure projects. The labour-market testing needed to access these visas is not rigorous, because it will allow employers to hire Chinese semi-skilled 457 workers up to 20 months after they stop advertising the jobs.

It seems to me that it is the unions who are telling us the truth here. The shroud of secrecy surrounding FTAs and the increasingly vitriolic abuse of anyone who dares raise a question indicates the government is the one with something to hide.

The government is the one who told us there would be no cuts to health or education or the ABC. They also said there would be no changes to the GST and that they would deliver the NDIS on schedule and in full.

Abbott is pinning his electioneering on “who do you trust”.

My immediate response is certainly not you!


Transfield shares go up and so does the debt


October 12, 2012

Joint Media Statement: Andrew Robb and Joe Hockey

The Gillard Government has driven up Australia’s credit card to a record $256.4 billion according to latest Australian Office of Financial Management (AOFM) figures.

The previous debt ceiling of $250 billion was raised by Labor to $300 billion in the May budget further confirming its inability to curb its debt addiction.

Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey, in a Liberal Party eNewsletter 27 July 2013, comments on the ALP’s “debt” TV commercial:

Kevin Rudd and Labor have increased Australia’s debt limit from $75 billion, to $200 billion, to $250 billion and now to $300 billion. The Treasury has told us that debt will hit $290 billion by Christmas, just $10 billion shy of the current legislated limit.

Only the Coalition will get the Budget back into the black, start to pay down Labor’s debt, and implement our economic Plan to grow the economy and create jobs.

Australians can’t afford another three years of Labor’s reckless spending.

Debt is certain to exceed $425 billion by Christmas

As at last Friday, 28 August 2015, gross government debt was $384.7 billion – the highest level ever recorded. This represents an increase of $111 billion from the level inherited by the Abbott government in September 2013. It is just as well Treasurer Joe Hockey scrapped the debt ceiling legislation early in the Abbott government’s term because he would now be having to introduce legislation to have the ceiling raised beyond $400 billion, a figure that will be exceeded before year end.

With the gross debt increasing by over $1 billion per week under the Abbott government, we have seen funding slashed to health, education, Indigenous Affairs, countless NGOs and charities, the CSIRO, the ABC, the NBN, and many other crucial areas.

We have seen the superannuation guarantee rise put on hold and the low income co-contribution abandoned. I’m not sure if axing the schoolkids bonus has passed yet. Family Benefit, after being reduced, is now being dangled as a sweetener again. Getting rid of the carbon and mining taxes cost low income earners in various different ways. Thousands of public service jobs have gone, as have many more in manufacturing and mining

So what have we got for the increased spending?

Plenty of money for defence and national security.

Since its election, the Government has invested more than $22 billion in Defence capability projects. The Government will provide Defence with $31.9 billion in 2015–16 and $132.6 billion over the Forward Estimates. This is an increase of $9.9 billion over the Forward Estimates when compared to the 2014–15 Budget and represents record expenditure on Defence.

Apparently Border Force is to have 6,000 officers. Taxi drivers beware! Perhaps some of those retrenched public servants could apply, provided they are willing to wear a black uniform, take an oath, use force, and fire a gun.

And lots of money for offshore detention.

Transfield has been providing services on Nauru, which has 637 asylum seekers, since September 2012, and on Manus Island since early 2014. Its existing $2.2 billion contract with the Department of Immigration for both centres will expire on October 31. Despite the many incidents and reports criticising the running of the detention camps, Transfield has just been awarded a further five year contract. The announcement saw Transfield shares rise by 9%.

Tony Shepherd, the head of Abbott’s Commission of Audit, was chairman of Transfield and had spent over a decade on the board, quitting only in October 2013 to take up the job as Commissioner.

Mr Shepherd left with more than 200,000 Transfield shares, allocated to his family superannuation fund, on top of his final salary of $380,000.

In a move strikingly similar to Dyson Heydon judging himself, Treasurer Joe Hockey and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann left it up to the audit commissioners to rule on potential conflicts of interest among themselves.

Shepherd now heads the WestConnex Delivery Authority which will award contracts to build the proposed Sydney toll road, co-funded by the Abbott government. He is also a director of the international arm of Virgin Australia.

Not that I am suggesting anything untoward in this tight knit circle.

“Mates help each other, they do not tax each other.” – Tony Abbott, February 23, 2011.

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They don’t instil confidence any more than they display it

In 2012 Tony Abbott said “Imagine the reaction, for instance, had the Howard government sought to gag naval personnel after ‘children overboard’. But the principle of free speech badly needs reaffirmation now, because of the current government’s attempts to bully critics into silence.”

Yes, he truly said that!

This from the man who has been so highly critical of the ABC and the Guardian for revealing allegations of animal abuse in live exports, abuse of asylum seekers by naval and security personnel , spying on foreign leaders, and the payment of people smugglers by our government. Q&A has evoked hysterical overreaction and government interference with the independence of the national broadcaster.

This from the man who has silenced his own Ministers. He has gagged the public service, journalists, border force personnel, and all people who deal with asylum seekers under threat of gaol time. He has defunded the Freedom of Information Office which is now run by one man working from home. Whole departments no longer answer requests from the media. Reports paid for by us are not released. Advice that does not support the government’s political view is rejected. The phrases “operational matter” and “commercial in confidence” are flung around with gay abandon to stop stakeholders from having any input and the public from having information.

If you are so sure you are right, why keep information secret?

The Abbott government tells us that the adults are in charge but they have veiled their governing in secrecy and reacted ferociously to any criticism. Instead of confidently answering legitimate concerns, they dismiss, attack or ridicule the questioner.

When Obama spoke about the need to protect the Great Barrier Reef our Treasurer responded that Obama “hasn’t had great success” so far with his own plans to cut carbon emissions. Julie Bishop inferred that he didn’t know what he was talking about.

When the executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christiana Figueres, suggested that bushfires would get worse due to climate change and that Direct Action was a very expensive way to address it, Tony Abbott said she was “talking through her hat”.

When Gillian Triggs produced the Forgotten Children Report, she was mercilessly attacked as a partisan hack and her resignation was sought by the Attorney General.

“The Human Rights Commission, in my view, is an important national institution, but it has to be like Caesar’s wife, it must both be and be seen to be above partisan politics,” Senator Brandis said.

One wonders if he feels the same about Dyson Heydon and the TURC.

When Sarah Hansen-Young expressed alarm at allegations in a submission to a Senate inquiry that she was spied on by security guards at the Australian-run detention centre on Nauru, Peter Dutton slammed her as an attention-seeking “embarrassment to our country” with a record of making unsubstantiated claims that inevitably were proved to be wrong. We are still waiting for his apology.

When the Mackay Conservation Group were successful in court action delaying the approval of the Adani mine, they were labelled as traitors and called every name under the sun, my favourite being “vigilante litigants” – an oxymoron from the moron who holds the position of our highest legal officer in the country and who is now seeking to take away the right of citizens to object to developments on environmental grounds.

When East Timor sought to take the Australian government to court for bugging their parliamentary offices to gain commercial advantage for a private company, George Brandis authorised ASIO officers to raid the offices of East Timor’s lawyer and confiscated the passport of the key witness. This landed Australia in the dock at the International Court of Justice and dealt a serious blow to Australia’s global reputation as a nation that respects the rule of law.

When Tanya Plibersek drew attention to the plight of displaced people in Syria, suggesting we should be providing humanitarian aid, our Foreign Minister accused her of advocating for a “terrorists’ picnic” in Syria.

When the Labor Party sought to ensure that there would be mandatory labour market testing for developments under the Chinese Free Trade Agreement, they were called “racist” and “xenophobes”.

When they questioned the legality of stripping citizenship, Abbott accused them of “rolling out a red carpet for terrorists” whilst refusing to make public the legal advice he had received.

When his own colleagues complain about the excessive control by the unelected Peta Credlin, Abbott calls them sexist.

They even refuse to debate in Parliament the decision to go to war.

Calm confidence is something we should expect from our leader. It is their job to reassure us that everything is under control.

But misplaced confidence can be a very destructive thing.

An increasing trend towards secrecy and virulent attacks on anyone who dares to question does not instil confidence any more than it displays it.

Bravado is no replacement for convincing argument that can bear scrutiny.

Tony’s circus maximus


If Tony Abbott is serious about listening to community expectations, if Dyson Heydon is serious about perceived bias, then it seems inevitable that Heydon must stand down.

As the Letters Patent are issued to him personally, the Royal Commission would be finished. Even if they could find a replacement, it would have to start again.

As it has already cost $61 million that would seem a huge waste of money.

Those who want the RC to continue point to the disclosures of criminality in the union movement which have led to some arrests.

I have heard claims that without the RC these wrongdoings would not have been exposed. That’s a bit rich considering it was reports in the media that got the ball rolling just as it was for the RC into child sexual abuse.

An investigation by Fairfax Media found several influential CFMEU ­officials, organisers and shop stewards in NSW and Victoria received bribes and other inducements from corrupt companies that needed their support to win multimillion-dollar contracts.

On the 28th and 29th of January 2014, the 7:30 Report aired two programmes about corruption, standover tactics, death threats and links to organised crime in the union movement.

If there was any doubt that Abbott saw this as an opportunity for a political witch hunt, one needs only to revisit his words at the time.

Mr Abbott seized on the CFMEU revelations to indicate he would broaden his original election promise to hold a judicial inquiry into the two decade-old Australian Workers’ Union slush fund that plagued Julia Gillard when she was prime minister, as well as the corruption in the Health Services Union, where former Labor MP Craig Thomson was an official.

“A royal commission is a form of judicial inquiry and we did promise a judicial inquiry into the AWU slush fund prior to the election,’’ Mr Abbott said. “I obviously have read the papers today. I have been following this issue, as you’d expect over the last few weeks and months. I notice there have been various calls including from people inside the union movement, inside the Labor movement more generally, for a fuller inquiry and the government will be making appropriate announcements in due course.”

Abbott seems happy to use the work of Fairfax and the ABC when it suits him, announcing the Royal Commission on 10 February 2014.

One wonders why the evidence wasn’t given to the police or the Fair Work Building Inspectorate rather than spending tens of millions on a televised witch hunt designed to discredit all unions and tarnish the Labor Party by association.

The unions themselves want corruption weeded out. To suggest that all unions engage in criminal activity is ludicrous. To extrapolate that all politicians who have been associated with, or supported by, unions are tainted is to deny workers a representative voice in parliament. Are we to allow big business to dictate policy unchallenged?

Even on The Drum they are asking “Has Labor avoided legitimate scrutiny over its ties with the union movement?”

The Gillard attack failed despite years of effort from an extraordinary number of people. Obviously, Abbott now wants to smear Bill Shorten.

Firstly, Shorten failed to declare that he was provided with an employee to assist him with his campaign to enter parliament. It could be equally suggested that Abbott is failing to declare the wages of many of his appointees who are actively working on his campaign.

It was also revealed that Shorten had negotiated for an employer to pay employees’ union fees. Whilst saving employees money, this no doubt boosted Shorten’s numbers, expanding his power base – a type of branch-stacking.

If we are going to object to that then there are many Liberal preselections that would also be under scrutiny, as would Abbott’s insistence on including the Nationals in a party room debate on a conscience vote on marriage equality.

It was suggested that Shorten should not have been dealing with the employer whilst there was an enterprise bargaining agreement under negotiation even though he was not directly involved. The union members were happy with the deal that was struck, the employers were happy, the workplace was harmonious.

These actions hardly seem to warrant the term “corruption” nor the millions of dollars being spent to pore over them.

It is no coincidence that the reintroduction of the ABCC is in the news again. Waiting in the wings to head the “tough cop on the beat” is/was John Lloyd, former director of the Work Reform and Productivity Unit at the Institute of Public Affairs and previous chair of the ABCC. While he is waiting for that gig, he has been appointed by Abbott as the Australian Public Service Commissioner.

In the past Mr Lloyd has preached about the need for greater casualisation of the Australian workforce, the “fact” Australian workers could not be guaranteed job security, and railed against the destructive nature of union militancy on productivity.

Be in no doubt about the nature of this Royal Commission. It is Abbott’s attack dog against his political opponents and the united voice of the workers they represent.

Let the police prosecute the criminals and stop wasting money on Tony’s circus maximus.


Dyson Heydon is an honourable man, says you know who

What is notable in the impassioned defence of Royal Commissioner Dyson Heydon by Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Attorney-General George Brandis, and Christopher Pyne (what’s he do again?) is the choice of descriptors such as eminent, esteemed, distinguished, above reproach, honourable . . . the list is long, but you get the idea.

While Dyson Heydon may well enjoy some or all of those qualities in certain aspects of his life and personality, we ought to know by now that such attributes in no way preclude their bearer from undesirable and even unethical actions, neither do they make those actions any the less heinous.

We know this from the frequent exposure of esteemed, respected, eminent, irreproachable, honourable men (sorry, but they are overwhelmingly men) who are publicly revealed to have a darker and more dangerous side, from the eminent legal and political members of pedophile rings, to the growing list of globally renowned entertainers who’ve sexually preyed on women and children, to the irreproachable religious leaders who’ve succumbed to worldly temptations. You think we’d know by now that the words eminent, irreproachable, distinguished, honourable and so on mean, unfortunately, absolutely nothing when used in defence of men of achievement who’ve been outed as alarmingly two-faced.

And yet Abbott et al seem to believe that the increasingly desperate enunciation of these linguistic accolades will put Dyson Heydon beyond accountability, in much the same way as Abbott’s description to the court of the convicted pedophile Father Nestor as a virtuous and upright man was intended to distract from, or at the very least ameliorate, his crimes. These blokes make mistakes but they are essentially honourable men, so come on. Yes. Indeed.

It’s beyond belief that Dyson Heydon, given his experience and eminence in his profession, could be unaware that he is required to be free of all political allegiances. If by some oversight he was unaware of the nature of the Liberal Party invitation to give the Sir Garfield Barwick lecture, rumour has it that Attorney-General George Brandis was also invited to the same event some time back in April. Surely he noticed that looming conflict of interest? No?

Indeed, did no legal personage in the ranks of Liberal lawyers grasp the ethical implications of a Royal Commissioner heading an investigation into trade unions and the Labor party simultaneously giving the keynote address at a Liberal party fundraiser? Because if they are that thick, how are they making a living?

The collapse of institutions once respected and even revered has eroded popular faith in the perceived trustworthy and honourable nature of authority, simply because it is authority. Too often those who wield the power of authority have been shown to have abused that power and we are increasingly disillusioned. Or perhaps we’re on the road to a more healthy realism and self-responsibility. Like believing in the sky fairy, trusting a man because he is eminent in his profession, no matter what his field, is, sadly, a loony and outdated idea. It belongs in the era when a man’s word was binding: how many centuries ago was that?

Besides, if Abbott found Nestor virtuous and upright that tells us everything we need to know about his capacity for good judgement.

This article was first published as ‘But he is an honourable man . . .’ on No Place For Sheep.


Commissioner Dyson Heydon must resign

The impartiality of a Royal Commissioner must be beyond reproach. Dyson Heydon heads the Royal Commission into Trade Unions. It has been disclosed that he was to be a speaker at a Liberal Party fund raiser bringing his impartiality into grave doubt. He has no choice but to resign and wind up the Commission.

It was well know when the Prime Minister appointed him that he had strong connections to the Liberal Party and was yet another captain’s pick. Even John Howard at the time said that Royal Commissions of this sort were a bad idea adding that they could come back to bite you. How prophetic he was.

And it was costing $80 million of our money.

Dyson Heydon was another captain’s pick, by the way.