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John Passant

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December 2015



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My interview Razor Sharp 18 February
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp on Tuesday 18 February. (0)

My interview Razor Sharp 11 February 2014
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp this morning. The Royal Commission, car industry and age of entitlement get a lot of the coverage. (0)

Razor Sharp 4 February 2014
Me on 4 February 2014 on Razor Sharp with Sharon Firebrace. (0)

Time for a House Un-Australian Activities Committee?
Tony Abbott thinks the Australian Broadcasting Corporation is Un-Australian. I am looking forward to his government setting up the House Un-Australian Activities Committee. (1)

Make Gina Rinehart work for her dole

Sick kids and paying upfront


Save Medicare

Demonstrate in defence of Medicare at Sydney Town Hall 1 pm Saturday 4 January (0)

Me on Razor Sharp this morning
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace this morning for Razor Sharp. It happens every Tuesday. (0)

I am not surprised
I think we are being unfair to this Abbott ‘no surprises’ Government. I am not surprised. (0)

Send Barnaby to Indonesia
It is a pity that Barnaby Joyce, a man of tact, diplomacy, nuance and subtlety, isn’t going to Indonesia to fix things up. I know I am disappointed that Barnaby is missing out on this great opportunity, and I am sure the Indonesians feel the same way. [Sarcasm alert.] (0)



Defend our unions

Mal Brough, Jamie Briggs, Bronwyn Bishop, Tony Abbott, Craig Thomson, Peter Slipper … Put in the name of your favourite politician. Clearly it is not just one bad apple. It is systemic.

Which leads me to the Trade Union Royal Commission. Unsurprisingly Liberal Party hit man Dyson Heydon delivered the report his political masters wanted. Without much evidence Heydon talks about widespread and deep-seated misconduct by trade union officials. You would think that with all this widespread and deep-seated misconduct the criminal courts would be full of officials charged with various crimes.

They aren’t full of officials because for ruling class toffs like Heydon and Turnbull, and the men who set this witch hunt up, Abbott and Abetz, the very existence of unions is misconduct. Unions undermine the ability of the market (ie capital) to completely screw workers and to allow bosses to make even more profit. They offend the sanctity of the altar of profit.

The TURC and the Australian Federal Police have already tried it on before with John Lomax, a union organiser in Canberra with the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union. In July Lomax was charged with blackmail for doing his job – winning a pay increase for his members. In October the Director of Public Prosecutions offered no evidence (because there was one) to support the charge and the case against Lomax was dismissed.

The Australian Federal Police in Canberra also raided the CFMEU offices on an invalid warrant (Justice Refshauge’s words, not mine) and used the bomb squad to hinder the CFMEU from monitoring, as is its legal right, the actions of the AFP during the raid.  

Then there is the arrest and charging of Victorian CFMEU leaders John Setka and Shaun Reardon with blackmail for the ‘crime’ of pressuring Boral in the struggle over safety on Grocon sites. Deaths of course continue on Grocon sites with not one criminal charge against those running the company. It is all about profit before people and criminalising any union activity that challenges that fundamental law of capitalism.

So, tell me again how all this TURC hyperbole and actions are not a carefully orchestrated ruling class attack on unions, in particular one of the few unions that defends its members, the CFMEU?

Even the prize alleged union criminals, Kathy Jackson and Ceser Melham, show the reality of the witch hunt. Jackson of course was a whistle blower whose allegations of union corruption were part of the justification for the Trade Union Royal Commission. In August this year the Federal Court found that Jackson, the Liberals’ union hero, misappropriated $1.4 m in union funds. TURC has recommended she be charged. Now, given the Federal Court in a civil case found she had misappropriated funds, you don’t need a $100 million royal commission to justify the decision to refer her to the police for investigation. Indeed, my guess is the cops are already investigating her, or should be.

Then there is Cesar Melham. Cesar is a Victorian ALP politician but was previously the head of the Australian Workers’ Union in Victoria. He took over from Bill Shorten, the current Labor Party leader. The TURC says ‘he may have committed offences relating to a payment from Cleanevent and an agreement with Thiess John Holland.’ So it referred him to police for investigation. Gee, that $100 million is looking like it is payment for a bit of mud throwing. All that money and all we have is a recommendation Melham be investigated.

Let’s be clear. Neither Melham nor Jackson have been charged. Two years and $100 million has produced what looks like a pup.

As ABC News says, there are some other criminal referrals:

‘Former National Union of Workers NSW secretary Derrick Belan was referred to NSW police, along with his brother Nick and their niece Danielle O’Brien in relation to possible fraud and larceny offences.

‘In addition, new NSW NUW secretary Wayne Meaney was also referred to police regarding the severance terms negotiated with Mr Belan.

‘Other people and corporations referred to police include:

  • Sydney construction industry figure George Alex
  • NSW CFMEU official Darren Greenfield
  • Former Queensland CFMEU boss Dave Hanna
  • AWU (referred to Victorian police over dealings with Cleanevent, Thiess John Holland, ACI Operations, Chiquita Mushrooms, Winslow Constructions and Downer EDI)
  • Former Thiess John Holland manager Julian Rzesniowiecki, in regards to dealings with the AWU over Melbourne’s Eastlink project
  • John Holland Pty Ltd, Chiquita Mushrooms Pty Ltd and Winslow Constructors Pty Ltd over dealings with the AWU’

    Notice that three of the dot point referrals are bosses or companies.

    Again, let’s be clear. Referrals are not criminal charges, and they are certainly not convictions. Let’s see if any of these eventuate in charges and then convictions. In the meantime the Turnbull government can run with the story about the ‘criminal organisations’ that are unions, all the way to a March election before the horror Budget in May.

    Most of the referrals appear to be to non-criminal bodies like the Australian Securities and Investment Commission and the Charities Commission.

    The attack on Cesar Melham and the AWU was part of the wider attack on Bill Shorten and the Labor Party he leads. It is a high risk strategy because if there is a bosses’ union it is surely the AWU. Undermining its control in vital sectors of the economy risks, however slight, the possibility that more militant unions might take over.

    Nothing highlights the toffs’ divorce from the hurley burley of unions fighting the bosses than Heydon’s comment:

    ‘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.’

    This is the born to rule attitude. Unions offend me and the natural order of capitalism. They are bad per se. We may not be able to specifically criminalise union membership – the good old days of William Pitt and the Combination Acts are gone forever – but we will throw half truths, innuendo and other scuttlebutt to paint a picture of union corruption and criminality which has no relation to reality.

    But that is the whole point of the Royal Commission – to paint unions as bad in and of themselves and further restrict their capacity to win wage increases, defend jobs and protect life and limb at work. If the government can get away with using TURC as the springboard to further emasculate the union movement then Workchoices will seem a picnic compared to what the ruling class will have in store for workers. Kiss goodbye to penalty rates, and welcome longer unpaid hours, more deaths and serious injuries at work, more job insecurity, individual contracts and massive cuts to the social wage.

    Heydon’s TURC may force some unions to fight. The recommendations threaten the existence not just of particular trade union bureaucrats but perhaps of the trade union bureaucracy as the retailer of labour power. Given the 30 years of class collaboration by the trade union leadership, most of them are unlikely let alone capable of organising or leading a fightback. It will be up to union members and the more left wing leaders to do that.

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    Time December 31, 2015 at 10:11 am

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