Union Royal Commission

I’ve been a Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) member for 15 years and I cannot remember a time when the union was not portrayed as a pack of gangster-like thugs, who standover "innocent" bosses.

Somehow the nature of a tough, multi-billion dollar industry with a history of being the most dangerous in the country always gets lost in the propaganda.

So imagine my delight, along with tens of thousands of other CFMEU members, when blackmail charges against union officials John Setka and Shaun Reardon were dropped on May 16.

Releasing the interim report of the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption on December 19, employment minister Eric Abetz said the findings showed the decision to hold a royal commission into unions had been “vindicated”.

However, the fact that almost every substantial case examined by the royal commission was already making its way through the legal system, suggests the system is working. A royal commission is a tool government can effectively employ when there is a serious failure by the existing regulatory system.

The witch-hunt into unions descended into farce last month as the Royal Commission’s attempt to justify its existence instead showed that it is an inquiry compromised by its politically motivated construction and damned by its own incompetence.

The week began with Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) assistant secretary Tim Lyons attacking royal commissioner Dyson Heydon and senior counsel assisting Jeremy Stoljar for confusing workplace bargaining with corruption and failing to understand the role of unions they had been asked to investigate.

When the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption was set up by the federal government, it was widely seen as a political witch hunt intended to smear the union movement with guilt by association to the scandals that had emerged in the Health Services Union (HSU).

With a bit of good fortune and a lot of spin-doctoring it would also provide the Coalition with handy ammunition against the ALP at the next federal election, likely to be held in late 2016 — a contrived “ticking Tampa”.

The serious financial fraud that surfaced in the scandal-ridden Health Services Union (HSU) provided the federal government with a handy excuse to establish the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption.

Although the commission has powers wide enough to inquire into all unions, the HSU is one of five organisations specifically mentioned in its terms of reference alongside the Australian Workers Union, Communications Electrical Plumbing Union, Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union, and the Transport Workers Union.

The revolution might not be televised, but you can see the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption proceedings live-streamed into your lounge room.

Such is the overwhelming public demand for riveting daytime televised reality shows that the commission is competing with Judge Judy in bringing this much-awaited courtroom drama to a computer near you via a mere click on their website.

The proceedings began in earnest on June 10, but much of what was heard in evidence has been well rehearsed in the Murdoch press over the past couple of years.

The Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption, which began on May 12, opened with allegations against former Labor prime minister Julia Gillard.

The commission's first day receiving evidence confirmed it is a political show trial.

The first person in the witness box was former Australian Workers Union (AWU) official Ralph Blewitt. The “explosive allegation” he made was that Gillard was at home when he paid a builder $7000 for renovations at her Melbourne home from a slush fund.

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