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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.



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  1. flohri1754

    Interesting week in both Sydney and Canberra ….. I would have been a lot more comfortable with the RC IF it had been an RC on the nation’s economy with a mandate to investigate both companies and unions. To have one focused merely on Unions is a blatant declaration for the “get-go” of its partisan nature. But, this is the Abbott led government, could one expect anything other than short-term political slants involved with any idea originating within it? I have yet to see anything from him and his cohorts other than visionless self-interest (and short-term at that).

  2. Kaye Lee

    The ridiculous part about reviving the ABCC is that it, like the RC, has no power to prosecute serious crime. There are only two criminal offences and both relate to failures to comply with the investigative powers of the ABCC. They are punishable by up to six months and 12 months imprisonment respectively. Incidentally, these powers infringe some of the most basic rights and freedoms known to the rule of law, such as the right to silence and the right to legal representation.

    State and federal police forces, their allied public prosecution agencies, as well as the Australian Crime Commission, all have extensive powers of criminal investigation and prosecution. The proposed ABCC is unfit for this purpose. It does not possess the power to prosecute serious crime, and nor should it.

    A revived ABCC is code for an authoritarian urge by the federal government to create a specialised workforce police targeting workers and their unions.

  3. flohri1754

    I liked the comment today on Radio National from a political pundit being interviewed by Fran Kelly … the Senate’s rejecting the ABCC twice has given Abbott the “trigger” to call for a D-D election. “Will he use it?” She asked …. “Only if he wants to commit hari-kari” replied the commentator …..

  4. Matters Not

    Royal Commissions here, there and everywhere, except there isn’t one that touches the big end of town. Banks are a classic example of fraud writ large. Ian Verrender develops a good case for such an investigation and solve Abbott’s Heydon problem at the same time.

    As he prepares to confront an Opposition hell bent on removing Justice Dyson Heydon from the Royal Commission into trade unions, a perfect opportunity has arisen that would allow the PM to kill two birds with one stone, as the old saying goes.

    Why not announce a royal commission into the scandals now engulfing almost every major bank in the land, shift Justice Heydon into the role, and appoint an acceptable replacement to the ALP Royal Commission?

    Note his reference to the ALP Royal Commission.

  5. flohri1754

    It would seem that the commission for the RC goes with Dyson Heydon …. if he is shown as too biased, the Union RC would have to start again …. another 61 million gone into Hockey’s deficit …..

  6. Kaye Lee

    Nothing is going quite as planned. He did the “forgive me” budget and the polls still stink. He carpeted Rudd, Gillard and Shorten but everyone is talking about Bronwyn and Dyson and SSM. He got his DD trigger but he can’t use it. He can’t do another budget because the economy has gotten worse under his stewardship and he can’t call for austerity and pork barrel. They can’t change leaders because that would make them just like Labor. What to do?

  7. Kaye Lee

    RC into offshore detention centres and boat turnbacks
    RC into political donations

    Federal ICAC

  8. Matters Not

    Speaking of Abbott’s missteps, one must laugh at the proposal to exempt private companies from disclosing ‘tax affairs’ because of fears of ‘kidnapping’.

    A claim by the federal Coalition government that exposing the tax affairs of big Australian companies will make their wealthy owners the target of kidnap attempts is “laughable”, a leading accounting academic says.

    “It is the stupidest excuse for non-disclosure I’ve ever heard,” said University of NSW accounting lecturer Jeffrey Knapp, an expert in financial reporting policy and practice.

    “This change is consistent with a pattern of behaviour of giving favour to high-wealth Australian individuals with proprietary companies.”

    Gina strikes again. In force since July 1.

  9. Kyran

    This whole saga seems representative of modern Australia. Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Brendan O’Connor was on Insiders on Sunday. Whilst I found much of what he said to be disjointed, one point he made regarding the RC’s evidentiary process was pertinent to your article. Any testimony to the RC is unchallenged and can be immediately reported in the press or used by the government.
    Practice Direction #1 for the RC sets the rules (Rules 43-50)

    44. All witnesses who give evidence to the Commission at a public hearing will be called and examined by Counsel Assisting the Commission.
    45. At the conclusion of the examination of a witness (Witness A) by Counsel Assisting at a public hearing, the public hearing of Witness A’s evidence will be adjourned and there will be no cross-examination of Witness A at that time.

    As far as I have read, this is the most shambolic standard ever set for a RC. The rest of the rules are worth a read as a blueprint for structural and systemic deceit.
    It allows an untested allegation to gain credibility, as it is evidence before a RC. It enables untested allegations to be circulated for comment in the MSM or parliament. It allows trial by media of untested allegations. When you factor in Heydon’s gratuitous advice to witnesses and the incompetence of Stoljar, the scene is well and truly set. We don’t need prosecution by the Police or trial in a court.
    Allowing ‘due process’ of the law would benefit society. This RC benefits only our politicians interests and empowers a compliant and incompetent media.
    Thank you, Ms Lee. Take care

  10. Carol Taylor

    Kaye Lee, surely they would do whatever they want. Attacking minority groups hasn’t hurt up until now, in fact it’s been loud applause at sticking it into the “rorters”. I dare say that any attack on the NDIS would be accompanied by msm stories of disabled people who aren’t really. Doesn’t make sense? Nothing much Abbott does or says does make sense.

  11. Kyran

    Matters Not, the SMH had an interesting article on the ‘research’ done by the government prior to enacting that stupidity.
    “The Coalition did not receive any advice from security agencies before agreeing to shield 700 of the nation’s largest private companies from disclosing their tax affairs on the basis that the information could endanger the personal security of the wealthy individuals behind them.”
    “But the government did not corroborate those fears. Applications to the AFP, the Attorney-General’s department and the Australian Tax Office, submitted by the Transport Workers’ Union, all came back saying no documents exist in relation to advice about the safety of individuals if the new regulations went ahead.”

    At least in a circus there is some expectation of skill and competence. Take care

  12. Terry2

    The disturbing this about this Royal Commission is that the Union officials with the most to answer for seem to be getting a leave pass.

    I’m talking of the Health Services Union (HSU) where the head of that Union was jailed – nothing to do with the Commission but as the result of a criminal charge – but two major fraudsters were given an indemnity from prosecution. Then, when a civil judgement required them to repay a combined $8 million to the HSU they bankrupted themselves and carried on their lives with nary a word from the Royal Commission.

    Then we have perhaps the biggest rorter of HSU members funds who so far has called the Royal Commission an ‘ambush’, has sought to transfer her assets to her boy friend and is also petitioning bankruptcy and still she has not been dealt with by this Royal Commission.

    Yet we have Labor Party leaders and ex Prime Minsters hauled across the coals for relatively minor matters they “overlooked” – and I use that word with due deference to the matters “overlooked” by the Royal Commissioner in more recent times.

    As has been mentioned elsewhere, bias can be seen as being waived if one of the parties was aware that the other had certain leanings at the outset but, when the perception of bias becomes manifest during the course of the proceedings, then it must be addressed.

  13. corvus boreus

    The actions of the mentioned ‘boyfriend (Fair Work VP Michael Lawler, a direct Abbott appointment) is a story in itself.
    Apart from the conflict of interest inherent in his intercessions on behalf of his de-facto, and his 9 month sickie at taxpayer expense to help his beloved defend the allegations against her and the transfer of assets into his name, there is the fact that he was her live-in sexual partner at the time that many of the alleged rorts took place.
    He likely benefited from the furniture, holidays, bling-bling, fine nosh and fancy plonk she is alleged to have obtained through illegal means, right down to getting hands on benefits from her surgical enhancements.
    The smell of this is beyond suspicious, it is thoroughly putrid.

    Federal ICAC now.

  14. mark delmege

    So the man who sat on a panel that awarded a young Tony Abbott a Rhodes Scholarship recently accepted an invitation to give a talk at a Liberal party function – The Garfield Barwick Lecture – named after a former high ranking Liberal Minister.

    This same man was appointed to Justice of the High Court of Australia by former Liberal PM Howard and to his current position as the sole Royal Commissioner to lead the Australian Government Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption by Liberal PM Abbott.

    This same man, who is known for his conservative political outlook, recently interrupted the Labor Opposition leader as he gave evidence before him at the Royal Commission to challenge his credibility as a witness.

    This same man now expect us to believe him when he says he didn’t know the Garfield Barwick lecture would be used as a liberal Party fund-raiser. Can you believe that?

  15. Kaye Lee


    Jackson employed/paid Lawler’s two sons even though they didn’t even live in Victoria.

    What is even worse is their manipulation of an ex-judge who is suffering from dementia, along the same lines as Mirabella did.

  16. kerri

    If Abbott was serious about union corruption he would also go after Kathy Jackson! As Abbott seems comfortable with using the ABC and Fairfax to suit his personal goals he also seems comfortable with enlisting help from characters like Jackson and Ralph Blewitt who are more than happy with selling their grandmothers to buy a ticket out of their own corruption cases.

    Kaye LeeAugust 18, 2015 at 9:29 am
    RC into offshore detention centres and boat turnbacks
    RC into political donations
    Federal ICAC
    With you all the way on those Kaye Lee.

    Matters Not. I doubt kidnapping would be a worry for Gina? Unless of course she wanted to arange for her kids to be kidnapped so she could keep their share of the loot.?
    Kaye Lee I know people on that BRW list, and the ones I know leave their houses unlocked whether they are in or out! Haven’t heard of a single kidnapping let alone robbery!

  17. diannaart

    However, Abbott is, demonstrably, not serious – surely Labor could be repeatedly pointing out the moral and ethical failure of the Abbott government? Keeping focus on the failings on Rudd and Gillard worked a treat.

  18. guest

    Jo Hockey, Warren Truss and others have been singing the praises of the Adani Carmichael coal mine. They speak of 10 000 jobs to be created. Is that a realistic number? They speak of infrastructure – but is it the kind of infrastructure we need, especially if the mine fails in a few years or does not happen at all? Part of that infrastructure requires the dredging of the sea-lanes near the Great Barrier Reef. They talk about investment, yet there are supporters withdrawing from the project. They claim to be in favour of respecting the environment, yet they complain about the court ruling about endangered species. They call it “lawfare”. They claim to be helping people in India to escape poverty. What they do not say is that India is reducing the importation of coal. Consequently, they have nothing to say about the economic viability of the mine.

    Question Time has become a circus. They sound hysterical in their delivery. Julie Bishop went red in the face as she screamed at the Opposition. Was this display an attempt to promote herself as the next PM?

    The Government is looking more and more desperate and removed from reality. And with good reason if the polls are anything to go by.

  19. Jexpat

    Overheard in the background during an international conversation with a colleague:

    “Hey, Australia, how do you like your version of George W. Bush.”

  20. philgorman2014

    A standing Federal ICAC with ancillary state and territory commissions. It’s the only way to restore public faith in Australia’s democratic processes and public institutions. Any politician or party with the cajones to call for that gets my vote. Thus far only the “nothing to lose” Greens have introduced a bill for a “National Integrity Commissioner”. After a flurry of publicity in 2014 it seems to have disappeared from view. I wonder why it’s supporters in the Labor party haven’t rallied to the cause.

  21. corvus boreus

    The bill for a ‘National Integrity Commission/er’ seems, by transcripts, to have suffered the fate of the filibuster.
    Long-winded statements against the motion by Coalition senators, rambling statements of in-principle support (with the occasional long and colourful personal anecdote) from Labor members, and, wouldn’t you know it, look at the time.
    There was one interjection by a Greens senator urging an immediate vote, but that rolled by like a tumbleweed.

    A similar thing happened with the ICAC bill, except that time the Greens tried a gag motion to force a vote. It failed. Bipartisan.

    As to those within the ALP who truly support the idea of such a clean-up of parliament and surrounds, I suppose they are dissuaded from making any meaningful efforts in that direction by their less fastidious comrades (and their sponsors).

  22. Bilal

    Corruption in the political parties and unions has been exposed by the NSW ICAC. Why does Abbott oppose a federal ICAC which would root out ALL corruption, not just that of his political opponents? This RC under the “trusted” Dyson looks like a modern version of the Bloody Assizes of James II, set up under Judge Jeffreys to root out the wicked supporters of constitutional monarchy who had risen against him. The unions today are like the constitutional monarchists of the 1600s, subversive supporters of an alternative world view. Jeffreys hanged, drew and quartered and enslaved the subversives then. Now they just seek to ruin their reputations or jail them. We all know what happened to James and Jeffreys ended his days in the Tower. Perhaps we will see a repetition of this failed attempt at tyranny and its results..

  23. townsvilleblog

    Kaye, yet another beautifully illustrative piece from you that we are coming to expect every time you fingers dance over the keys…

  24. Kaye Lee

    I just heard there was a finding against Kathy Jackson. Didn’t quite hear details but I think they said she has to repay over $1 million? The bankruptcy should be an interesting trail.

  25. Möbius Ecko

    Over $1.3m plus over $900k in damages with more to come.

  26. Möbius Ecko

    Social media is making a big deal out of Abbott calling her a hero and are playing Pyne’s video praising her bravery.

  27. Kaye Lee

    Counsel assisting the Royal Commission into Trade Union Corruption and Governance has also recommended Ms Jackson be charged with criminal offences.

  28. Terry2

    In a civil action mounted by the HSU Jackson has been ordered to repay the Union $1.4 million in funds misappropriated – that is dishonestly taken or stolen. It will now be interesting to see if the AFP act as promptly as they did with Craig Thomson in preferring criminal charges.

    Jackson has, of course been using delaying tactics to allow herself time to distribute and hide assets so that her petition for bankruptcy would succeed : the Union tried to stop the transfer of her home to her defacto partner but I’m not sure where this is up to.

    This, in fact, was what the Royal Commission should have been about, the other allegations against Gillard and Shorten were just a political sideshow.

    The so called whistleblower and darling of the Abbott government turns out to be the biggest rorter of them all : almost Shakespearean in its duplicity.

    Watch this space to see if our justice system is still intact.

  29. Jollyjumbuck

    Abbott is just running scared. Trying to get anyone who could be a threat to him at the up coming elections. What better way to do it, but he can’t even seem to get that right either!

  30. Mark Needham

    “a televised witch hunt designed to discredit all unions and tarnish the Labor Party by association.”

    I do believe the Unions do not need a hand to discredit themselves, in all honesty. Aren’t they doing a good enough job, by themselves.

    A Federal ICAC, is a bloody good idea.!

    Kathy Jackson is a Thieving cow, and deserves what ever she gets.

    “The unions themselves want corruption weeded out. ”
    Really, I mean Really. Jackson only squealed because she didn’t have the brains to realise that “Et tu Kathy”. She was “ambushed”.
    Now, here’s an analogy or two, for you:-
    … the Mafia, want to weed out corruption.
    …the LNP want to weed out “expense rorts”.
    …prisoners, want to weed out drugs, bashings and extend times served.

    Give us a break, Please.
    Warm regards,
    Mark Needham

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