Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption

Blackmail charges brought against Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMMEU) leaders John Setka and Shaun Reardon were dropped by Victorian prosecutors on May 16 in a major embarrassment for the federal government’s trade union royal commission, police and prosecutors.

Tony Abbott was elected in 2013 on the “promise” that the Coalition’s proposed industrial relations legislation, Work Choices, was “dead, buried and cremated”.

Of course, few workers genuinely believed that an incoming Coalition government would keep its word. Certainly, construction workers knew it was only a matter of time before they were in the firing line.

About 8000 unionists gathered outside the Melbourne Magistrates' Court on December 8 to support Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) officials John Setka and Shaun Reardon, who faced blackmail charges.

As the pantomime that is the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption, stumbles to its conclusion at the end of the year, figures released by the Australia Bureau of Statistics (ABS) on October 27 reveal a 2% drop in union membership to 15% of the workforce.

According to the ABS report, in August last year 1.6 million people were members of trade unions in their main job.

In an embarrassing twist in one of the few prosecutions to come from the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption, the ACT Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) will drop a blackmail charge against Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) organiser John Lomax.

ACT DPP Jon White confirmed his office would offer no evidence against Lomax when he next appears in court on October 19.

Whatever else he might be, John Dyson Heydon is no fool. When he accepted the job of royal commissioner inquiring into trade union governance and corruption, he knew what was expected of him.

The commission was set up as a political witch-hunt into unions, designed to give the federal Coalition government an issue with which it thought it could win the next election. Heydon was happy to oblige and has been handsomely paid for doing so.

Dyson Heydon will not step down as commissioner investigating corruption in trade unions, having decided to ignore the widespread perception of his political bias.

Whatever else he might be, Heydon is no fool. When he accepted the job as royal commissioner he knew what was expected of him.

The commission was set up as a political witch-hunt into unions, designed to give the Coalition government an issue which it thought it could win the next election with.
Heydon was happy to oblige and has been handsomely paid for doing so.

The future of the federal government’s anti-union, kangaroo court — the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption — is in doubt, following media revelations that the commissioner, retired High Court Justice John Dyson Heydon, accepted an invitation — not once, but twice — to speak at a Liberal Party fundraiser while serving on the body. The commission first sat on April 9 last year and media reports say Heydon received the invitation to speak via email just one day later, on April 10. He was approached again in March.

The financial scandal in the Health Services Union (HSU) involving its national president Michael Williamson and former national secretary Craig Thompson ended in the courts when both of them were convicted for fraud and theft offences.

It became the trigger for Prime Minister Tony Abbott to announce on February 10 last year that he was setting up a Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption headed by former High Court judge Dyson Heydon.

Why was John Dyson Heydon QC liberal prime minister Tony Abbott’s “captain's pick” to run the royal commission into the trade unions?

It could be from the shared solidarity that you’d expect of Rhodes scholars. Or perhaps it was just innocent association from the time former Prime Minister John Howard appointed Dyson Heydon to the High Court in 2003, a position he retired from under the compulsory age rule of 70 in 2013.

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