14
Jul
2015

Shorten’s Reactions

Shorten has reacted to the criticism of his performance at the RC by stating that he looked forward to debating workplace laws and jobs with Abbott. In a rather strangely worded  justification he indicated that “The question which Australian parents are asking themselves today is what sort of work will our kids have in the years and decades ahead. Labor is committed to answering that question and if Mr Abbott wants to debate workplace relations, bring it on.” And “If the PM wants an early election on workplace relations let’s bring it on”.

Abbott himself did not rule out an early election but indicated he wanted to have Parliament pass the two outstanding bills  on workplace relations. But as I have already suggested in recent Commentaries, Abbott needs to do more than that.

Meantime the Morgan poll today shows that its TPP measure has resulted in an increase of 2.5 percentage points in the Coalition’s position to 49%. Primary support for Labor is down by 1.5 percentage points to 34.5%, the lowest since April last year. In the explanatory note Morgan states that my article in today’s AFR “says it all” and comments that “Australia’s industrial and workplace relations system needs to be overhauled to increase efficiency and improve productivity”.

I have received other compliments on the article including from Graeme Haycroft, who runs an advisory business on workplace relations. He said “You are the first commentator who understands the core issue” and added that he knew that when Shorten was head of AWU that union had a special licence which made it  difficult to compete with.

More indications of union “misbehaviour” emerged today at the Royal Commission’s hearings in regard to the Canberra branch of the CFMEU (RC questions CFMEU). The owner of a formwork company there said he had won a contract to work on a construction of flats after agreeing to pay $50,000 to a CFMEU official or risk being made bankrupt. Counsel assisting the commission foreshadowed providing evidence of other payments to the union, as well as apparent intimidation and coercion of subcontractors, the “promotion” of cartels for key trades such as scaffolders, the “promotion” of pattern EBAs across groups, and the CFMEU insistence that 80% of workers be union members and that companies/contractors pay their dues.

Interestingly, the CFMEU was given no advance notice that the head of the formwork company would give evidence at today’s hearings. This may explain why the CFMEU has announced that it does not intend to appear at imminent hearings. Further details are in the article below published late today in The Australian online.

It seems possible that the realisation  by the CFMEU that the RC has obtained damning evidence from companies/subcontractors who have been coerced by the union may lead to an attempt by that organisation to refuse to give evidence or to give it in a meaningless way. If that happens, even though it has considerable powers this will create difficulties for Commission. On the hand, if the Commission has obtained  evidence from witnesses who have had dealings with the union, that may be sufficient for it to reach damning conclusions.

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