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.
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