Union Power & Shorten’s Fate
Today’s AFR has published my letter (see below) criticising the “deal” Shorten made when heading the AWU or its Victorian arm and which deprived fellow workers of wages/conditions awarded by the Fair Work Commission. As mentioned in my Commentary on Sunday, it quickly became apparent that such “deals” are more extensive than had previously been thought. However, outside The Australian there has so far been only limited commentary on either this exposure of Shorten’s behaviour or its broader implications for the arrangements regulating trade unions and workplace relations. Of some relevance is that the latest Newspoll shows that Shorten has an approval rating at a record low of 28 per cent in a result which marginally increases the Coalition’s TPP to 49/51.
Other developments related to the Royal Commission inquiry and to trade union behaviour generally include the consistent refusal to answer questions of a CFMEU official who has temporarily stood aside from his office to attend the Commission’s hearings. This “I don’t recall” answering approach led the legal rep of a union whistleblower to accuse the CFMEU guy “you’re continually lying”. It also added weight to evidence given by officials involved in administering the union’s super fund that they were “forced” to provide members’ names to the union official.
The Federal Court action by the Health Services Union against former official Kathy Jackson is also of interest. The union is attempting to freeze her assets as part of its attempt to recover union funds which Jackson is alleged to have used for personal purposes.
With competing union voices, the Royal Commission is now in a strong position to deliver a report that recommends major changes in regulatory arrangements and which Labor will find difficult to disparage as a purely political initiative by the Coalition.
Two articles on the issue are below –Bill “Shorten role in rival’s rejected enterprise bargaining deal” and “Bill Shorten has important questions to answer”
Obama Caves in on Iran Nuclear
Reports from the US indicate that Iran’s refusal to allow access to military bases has effectively “forced” Obama into allowing Iran to acquire nuclear weaponry. I say “forced” because Obama had indicated that he was determined to reach a nuclear agreement with Iran as one of the legacies of his Presidentship. This article (The Obama Administration’s Huge Nuclear Concessions to Iran) suggests that Congress “must restore a responsible US foreign policy on Iran by passing new sanctions requiring Iran to comply with all UN Security Council resolutions on its nuclear program”.
Separately, the Wall St Journal reports (June 14) that, as part of the US’s attempt to suck up to Iran, Obama had changed several aspects of foreign policy, including the elimination of funding assistance to Shiite groups seeking to establish a voice independent of Iran’s Hezbollah in Lebanon; the removal of the freezing of assets of proliferators of weapons of mass destruction imposed under Bush; and an agreement to lift limitations for Iran on ballistic missiles. It would not be surprising if Israel decides that it needs to take action soon against Iran.
With Congress refusing to give Obama a freehand to negotiate the planned free trade area covering Pacific countries (TPP), and with Democrat candidate Clinton reportedly not favouring it because she needs support from unions fearful of competition, Obama is already a lame duck President. The one encouraging aspect of this is that it should help prevent a binding agreement on emissions of CO2 in December.