RC; Asylum Seekers; Abe Visit

Union Corruption

As I predicted, with today’s front page lead extending to the whole of pages 2 and 3 the Herald Sun is giving major coverage to the Royal Commission on Union Corruption (see below). Unfortunately, the Herald Sun did not mention some of the statements by witnesses which needed to be reported and nor did the report in The Age.

The report by Workplace Express (below) includes, for example, the knock-out blow applied to one of the builders.

The “defence” by CFMEU Setka that only bad language is involved does not stand up. In fact, the day’s hearings confirm that the existing regulatory system is either unable or unwilling to prevent unions from extracting money/goods from businesses and/or forcing those businesses to employ unionists who cannot or will not perform as employees. The best description is a unionist’s “Everything works on a bit for youse and a bit for us. Forget about the law, right? I give you a bit, you give me a bit, right?”

In the case under examination it appears that the builders operate on a relatively small scale and are not the large builders, such as Lend Lease, who have been (wrongly) attacked by some commentators for failing to stand up to union pressures. The reality is that, unless the regulatory system operates effectively (as the ABCC did), unions will have a monopoly position which allows them to dictate working conditions and extract money regardless of the size of businesses. Moreover, other reports indicate that union activism is far from being confined to the CFMEU.

It also seems clear that police should be given the responsibility for responding in instances involving physical threats and actions by unions.

Asylum Seekers

The government’s decision to stop asylum seekers of Sri Lankan origin, but outside  Australia’s migration zone, and to send one of the two boats back to Sri Lanka, is being widely portrayed in the usual quarters (including the New York Times) as a heartless and inappropriate policy. Refugee advocates (and others, including Human Rights Commissioner Triggs) have opposed the policy mainly because the checks on the genuineness of their refugee claims have involved only a screening process on the sea started by the previous government and, it is argued, that any resultant sending of claimants back to Sri Lanka risked exposing those in the Tamil contingent to violence and torture.

The temporary injunction sought by refugee advocates has been accepted in the High Court and, although the government claims the refugees have no legal rights under the Migration Act, it has indicated that it was not intending to send the second boat of 153 to SL and would not do so without giving 72 hours’ notice. The High Court has adjourned the case for a directions hearing in about three weeks.

Those in the first boat, of which four were Tamils, were sent back to Sri Lanka via that country’s navy and have been charged there but released on bail. Five Sinhalese men are expected to be charged in SL of people smuggling.

While it is premature to assess this new development definitively, it seems unlikely that the stop the boats policy will have to be changed in any material way. Even if the High Court (whose decision to intervene must be questioned), reaches an unfavourable decision on the screening process, the worst that could happen would be that the government would have to assess the genuiness of refugee claims on Manus Island or Nauru. Such a process would scarcely be attractive to asylum seekers from Sri Lanka.

Abe Visit (and the ABC’s treatment thereof

Although not yet finished, there is no doubt that Abe’s visit is a great success. His speech to Parliament in English was not perfect but was presented in a relaxed and friendly way and held out hope for the future.

Regrettably, the Fairfax press and the ABC could not bring themselves to welcome the first address (and in English) by a Japanese leader or give Abbott even a pat on the back. Of course, speeches by overseas leaders can be over-praised. But  The Age could not find space until page 7 and had no editorial; the Financial Review did have a helpful editorial but decided to headline the front page with “Japan warns of China threat” despite Abe making little reference to China in his main address; while the ABC’s treatment on both radio and TV was woeful, with the TV evening news running the story about third (followed immediately by a court decision on the murder of a gigolo)  and the 7.30 report putting it after a swimming coach’s sexual abuse story.