Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Julia Gillard back in spotlight over links to unions

The details coming from court last week were lurid – a judge sentencing Michael Williamson to at least five years in prison while describing his "parasitic plundering" of almost $1 million from his union. Dramatic. Parasitic. Embarassing. Williamson is a former national president of the Australian Labor Party. Former general (national) secretary of the Health Services Union. Former vice-president of NSW Labor. And his fall is just a small section of the mosaic of revelation that is taking shape. Dramatic, parasitic, embarassing on a national scale.

It is not just corrupt union officials who will be nervous about the looming royal commission into financial irregularities in the union movement. It is some unions. It is some big corporations that have paid off unions. Household names will be caught in the net of inquiry.

The most conspicuous individual name will be Julia Gillard, who, simply by being associated with this judicial inquiry, will suffer collateral damage to the gravitas of her legacy as the first woman prime minister of Australia.

First among those to be investigated will be the Australian Workers Union. What had appeared old and buried will become fresh again in a royal commission headed by a former High Court judge, Dyson Heydon. It is not just going to be an inquiry into a single slush fund set up 22 years ago. The commission will examine the possibility of systemic money laundering, hundred of thousands of dollars channelled from major building contractors to AWU officials via trusts ostensibly set up to administer money set aside for training and safety. In reality, these slush funds were used to buy industrial peace, off the books.

The practice has been systemic in these sections of the economy, especially the construction industry. The cumulative cost of this system of covert bribery is potentially enormous over time. This is the brief of the Heydon royal commission, to find the systemic use of off-the-books payments. It will be a slow burn.

No wonder that Paul Howes, the young, ambitious national secretary of the AWU, the man who replaced Bill Shorten as head of the union in 2007, has announced he will be stepping away from  that job in July. He will have a mixture of personal and professional reasons for doing so, but the starring role the AWU will play in the royal commission  is something he would do well to distance himself from.

Gillard will not be able to step away. She is trapped by history. Although she played only a cameo in the AWU's use of slush funds many years ago, she went on to become prime minister and her boyfriend all those years ago, a former AWU official, Bruce Wilson, has become a high-profile person of interest to the  Victoria Police fraud squad. Gillard is thus stuck with a spotlight disproportionate to any role.

I have never questioned her claim that she was duped by unionists who used her legal services to engage in fraud. I do not question that claim now. But it will be a harrowing experience to have her conduct examined by investigators and her judgment questioned by a jurist as eminent as Heydon, a Rhodes scholar, winner of the Vinerian Scholarship as the top civil law graduate of his year at Oxford, youngest person appointed a professor of law at Sydney University and, for 10 years, a justice of the High Court of Australia, until last year.

This is a much more formidable proposition than the bear-pit of Federal Parliament. The former prime minister can expect to be required to answer questions about the circumstances of her departure from the  labour law firm Slater & Gordon, about why she did not open a file at her firm when doing certain legal work for officials of the AWU, about how a legal entity she created came to be used for ilicit purposes, and about how a false statutory declaration was used during this process. There wil be other questions. The Victorian fraud squad will be assisting the royal commission with its inquiries into this matter.

But this is only one small element of the mosaic. The wider inquiry into the AWU, for exampe, will examine the possible systematic use of slush funds to channel bribes and pay-offs to union officials by building contractors. We already know that, at the time Gillard was associated with Wilson, the construction company Thiess was allegedly channelling hundreds of thousands of dollars to a slush fund set up by him   supposedly   to facilitate the orderly completion of a huge infrastruture project in Western Australia, the Dawesville Channel.

Multiply this scheme by dozens and you get a sense of where this royal commission is heading. For decades, leading construction companies have been buying industrial peace, pushing payments through slush funds or simply handing over cash. The collusion between big corporations and big unions has been systemic, at the expense of smaller contractors and the people who ultimately pay for featherbedding, the real estate sector.

There will be worse revelations than bribery and collusion. There will be  evidence of extortion and violence. Eventually, the union movement will be more transparent and its governance more rigorous thanks to this royal commission, after it uncovers where so many ethical bodies are buried.

Labor can blow smoke in the public's eyes about knighthoods and the Parliament's Speaker, but these are insular fripperies compared with the big inquiry into rorting and political complicity, about which Labor has nothing to say.


Labor’s BER reforms ‘a case study of failure’

THE $16.2 billion Building the Education Revolution scheme, one of the signature policies of the Rudd and Gillard years, has been condemned as an international case study of legislative and ­bureaucratic failure.

A paper by three Australian academics published in the International Journal of Public Administration says the Labor-era stimulus program of building multi-purpose school halls, science labs and libraries highlights the pitfalls governments need to avoid when rolling out large-scale public expenditure programs.

It finds the BER did not “adequately capture” value for money and produced “fiscal lag’’ because its objectives to pump prime the economy with expansionary stimulus happened too late and was at odds with the ­Reserve Bank’s restrictive monetary policy.

More than five years after the height of the global financial crisis, The Australian can reveal there are still eight public and private school projects to be completed in NSW and one non-government project in Victoria.

“It is argued that the BER program represents a ‘case study’ of how governments should not pursue large-scale public expenditure programs,’’ the paper, “Building the Education Revolution: Another Case of Australian Government Failure?’’ states.

Lead author Chris Lewis told The Australian that a better ­designed program would have ­reduced waste and produced ­better value for money.

“The faults within the system were illustrated by the government rushing the program. As we conclude, there is no longer the expertise in the public service any more. It’s bureaucrats rather than people with technical expertise and that’s a big problem,’’ Mr Lewis, who now contributes to On Line Opinion, said.

Education Minister Christopher Pyne said “taxpayers have every right to be angry with the former Labor government over the way it let their money be ­wasted on over-priced school buildings, and their failure to quickly act to prevent waste from occurring’’.

In 2011, the third and final taskforce report into the BER highlighted concerns about value for money and found 1.1bn was wasted in delivering public school buildings to NSW and Victoria, when compared with Catholic counterparts. Victorian and NSW government schools had 72 per cent of complaints despite delivering 37 per cent of the program.

Craig Mayne, a BER whistleblower, said yesterday the findings of the research paper were “no great surprise’’ and “blind Freddy could have seen at the time that it was always going to be a monumental cock up’’.

Mr Mayne said he found it frustrating that he and others had “spent a lot of time pro bono trying to save the government from this stupidity but to no avail’’.

The paper, which was published last week by the Philadelphia-based journal, states that its analysis “indicates that the BER program can be classified as an example of government failure particularly in terms of ‘legislative’ and ‘bureaucratic’ failure”.

“With regard to ‘bureaucratic failure’, it was found that DEEWR’s (the then Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations) reporting and monitoring requirements did not adequately capture ‘value for money’ factors,” it says. “Moreover, the ‘value for money’ criterion was not defined in the revised 2009 BER program guidelines nor was it a requirement for education authorities to report on ‘value for money’ or the ‘quality’ of the built outcomes.”

Labor education spokeswoman Kate Ellis said there was there were challenges in rolling out “the biggest school infrastructure investment the nation has ever seen, quickly in an effort to support jobs’’ during the GFC. “This paper unfortunately does not adequately reflect the positive impact the BER has had on schools and communities across the country, which should be a key measurement applied here,” she said. “If you ask school communities ... whether the BER was a success, you’ll find the answer is a resounding yes.”

But Mr Pyne said the paper highlighted the failure of the program to require value for taxpayers’ money. “It does also highlight the relative success of the non-government sector to achieve greater value for the funds they were allocated, as they had greater autonomy to decide how money was spent. This is a further endorsement of increasing school autonomy as principals and schools are better placed than distant bureaucrats to make sure school budgets achieve value for money.’’

He said billions were wasted. “Labor blew a massive opportunity. It’s nice to have a new school building but it’s nicer to know your children are getting good results.’’

The paper draws upon the findings of the BER Implementation Taskforce.

“In line with ‘legislative failure’ … it can be argued that the BER program’s economic stimulus purpose was limited, given that the rollout actually occurred after the worst of the impact of the GFC had already hit the Australian economy,’’ it says.

Mr Lewis, who worked for Canberra University as a visiting fellow, completed the paper with Brian Dollery of the University of New England and Michael A. Kortt of Southern Cross University.


Elites wilfully blind to decency

IF the citizens of Koo Wee Rup took umbrage at Gillian Triggs’s sledge they will just have to learn to get over it. As the Human Rights Act stands, the act of describing a place as “shabby” does not count as discrimination against the people who live there.

The Human Rights Commissioner was responding to a reporter from the Herald Sun who had rung asking her to explain why the commission had spent $60,000 on a cocktail party at a harbourside venue in Sydney.

“I really do take umbrage at the idea that somehow because you’re a human rights body you’ve got to do things in some sort of shabby way,” she told John Masanauskas. “We don’t want to be in a village hall in Koo Wee Rup just because we haven’t got a lot of money.”

Triggs’s comments have done nothing to dispel the impression that the Human Rights Commission is living in a world of its own, removed and out of touch with community standards.

The Australian thing to do after a gaffe like that would be turn up at the front bar of the Royal Hotel and shout Koo Wee Rup’s locals a beer, preferably from one’s own pocket.

It would be churlish to make too much of the discrepancy between Triggs’s weekly income and that of the average household in Koo Wee Rup. We merely note that Triggs earns more in a day than the average Koo Wee Ruppian earns in seven.

The drive to Koo Wee Rup from the centre of Melbourne takes barely an hour, but the two places are worlds apart. An academic lawyer like Triggs might struggle to make conversation.

The town’s 3080 residents do not have a law degree between them. Three quarters of them did not complete Year 12.

It is a town where people come home from work with dirt under their fingernails, a town of motor mechanics, carpenters, plumbers, cleaners, concreters, packers, truck drivers and earth movers. It is a place where the commissioner and commentator classes rarely venture. The Census data tells the story. Number of journalists: Nil. Media professionals: Nil. Number of university lecturers: zero.

Nevertheless, under the government’s proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act, the view of people in towns like Koo Wee Rup would count for something at last. A judge would be obliged to consider what the view of the “ordinary reasonable Australian” is in decisions about racial vilification.

It is a move Triggs and other supporters of the status quo are fiercely resisting. To them the judgment of the “ordinary reasonable Australian” is suspect, especially if they are white.

“What race is this hypothetical ‘ordinary reasonable member of the Australian community’ meant to be, exactly?” the ABC’s Waleed Aly asked rhetorically in The Age last week. “If you answered that they have no particular race, then you’ve just given the whitest answer possible.”

To understand racism you must be — in Aly’s words — a “wog, gook or sand nigger,” which pretty much writes off Koo Wee Rup, where 98.3 per cent of those who stated their ancestry in the 2011 Census came from Australian or European stock.

Aly continues: “If the ordinary reasonable Australian has no race, then whether or not we admit it, that person is white by default and brings white standards and experiences to assessing the effects of racist behaviour.

“This matters because — if I may speak freely — plenty of white people (even ordinary reasonable ones) are good at telling coloured people what they should and shouldn’t find racist, without even the slightest awareness that they might not be in prime position to make that call.”

So in the cause of fighting prejudice, Aly argues that only those who pass his race-based test should arbitrate the boundaries of racism. Can he really have thought this through?

The resort to such intemperate and divisive language is a further indication that the Human Rights Commission’s supporters are losing the argument. Perhaps they should get out more. They might be pleasantly surprised at the everyday decency of the ordinary reasonable Australian.

Race commissioner Tim Soutphommasane frets about a “darker, even violent, side of our humanity” that might surface if parliament tinkers with the act.

Yet there is nothing, apart from prejudice, to back this slur on the character of his fellow Australians. Time after time, Australians have confounded their sophisticated critics with their ­capacity to embrace plurality.

In so far as attitudes to immigration reflect broader sentiments on race, Australians are remarkably broad-minded, according to the latest findings from the rolling Australian Election Study released in February.

Fewer than one in six Australians think immigration is bad for the economy and 75 per cent say it opens the country to other ideas and cultures.

In 1996, more than six out of 10 Australians wanted immigration quotas to be cut. In 2013 a clear majority — 59 per cent — believed immigration levels were about right or should be increased. There are signs that attitudes are softening even towards asylum-seekers. At the 2001 election 63 per cent wanted to turn back the boats. Last year 49 per cent advocated the turn-back.

There is no evidence to suggest anything has changed since Gough Whitlam declared Australians “an exceptionally generous and understanding people” in a speech proclaiming Australia’s first human rights legislation

“When we look at the history of our immigration program and compare our record with that of any other multiracial society, it is remarkable how smooth and harmonious this great experiment has been,” he said. “We can fairly claim that Australian people are among the most tolerant and decent in the world.”


Anger against judge who let Muslim pedophile go

Larry Pickering

There’s a message for PM Abbott in the public’s response to the Ali Jaffari story. Over the weekend Facebook registered more than 500,000 hits, recorded a ‘reach’ of over 600,000 and 8,500 shares and climbing. The Pickering Post website crashed, despite having just moved to bigger server.

The avalanche of white-hot hostility toward the decision of Geelong Magistrate, Ron Saines, was unmatched in its genuine rage.
This issue is not about race (sick perverted paedophiles like Jaffari infect every race) it’s about a judiciary which tolerates an alien culture over ours.

Yet the judiciary is required to reflect the values of our culture... and it clearly does not!

The judiciary is a self-regulating body and, as with all systems that are permitted self-regulation, it will eventually become corrupt, undemocratic and fastidiously self-protective.

The appallingly low quality of Australia’s magistracy is a consequence of how they are appointed. They are failed lawyers, otherwise they would still be in lucrative practices.

Law firms don’t sack unwanted lawyers, they simply nominate them for the magistracy and the Attorney General signs off on them.

Even Julia Gillard, who is guilty of the worst of “lawyer” crimes, wasn’t sacked, she was politely asked to quietly leave.

Paedophilia is over-represented in the judiciary, religion and the entertainment industry. Actually it’s more than over-represented, it’s rampant, systemic and cleverly disguised.

Western nations practise the same paedophile sickness as do Islamic nations.  The difference is that Western nations secrete it while Islamic nations wear it as an emblem of their “culture”.

Australia has welcomed and befriended people of varied cultures world-wide. We have always been multicultural, and we are much the richer for it. There weren’t enough of us in the first fleet to populate or develop a nation. We were reliant on immigration to become one of the world’s major economies within a short 200 years.

The diverse cultures of China, Japan, Greece, Italy and many other European, African and Asian nations have joined our own unique culture to enrich the Aussie lifestyle.

But there is one culture that is alien to Australians who have, until now, welcomed all-comers... and that’s the culture of Islam.

I can already hear the loony Left screeching “racism” and “xenophobia”, but no fellas, it has nothing to do with race, it has everything to do with “culture”, a culture that will not, and has no intention to, assimilate and join in our celebration of multiculturalism.

Islam is an archaic culture embracing paedophilia, beheadings, severing of limbs, rape, incredible cruelty to animals, subjugation of women, sexual abuse of children and an innate, violent hatred of Christianity and democracy.  Everything we stand for, they stand against.

Anyone daring to challenge their beliefs is met with a death sentence in the name of their Allah.

Islam uses Western tolerance to further encroach on and destroy our social structures. That’s its aim, and it’s working, because we are allowing it to work in the name of racial tolerance when there is no connection to “race”... it’s a cultural coup.

Illegal boat arrivals were/are the worst of all adherents of Islam, they stood little chance of being accepted using normal immigration channels (witness the latest ABC doco). Yet the Rudd/Gillard/Green Government let 30,000 loose in our communities, unprocessed.

Is it any wonder Middle East Crime Units have been deployed?
How many reports of gang rapes, shootings and killings are now appended with the description, “men of Middle Eastern appearance”?
They should also append the non-descriptive term, “men of Islamic conviction”.

They have developed their own bikie gangs and have already established a Sharia banking system right here in Australia that severely financially disadvantages Australians.

We are their resolved enemy and there is an intention to break down our social structure to enable a "caliphate". They make no secret of this intention, it is preached and foretold from the mushrooming mosques Green councils are encouraging. (Greens too would love to see our capitalist society destroyed.)

Stopping the boats may have turned off the tap but the flood of unwanted Islamic culture Labor/Greens left us with still remains.

For Australia to survive the coming Muslim onslaught that Europe is now suffering, we need changes that defy the false tag of “racism”.  If the evil destructive chain of Islam is not broken now it will in future be impossible to deport indoctrinated generations of Islamic youth. They will be Australian born and bred!

Mosques must be monitored and radical clerics charged under the threat of deportation when they promote violence, hatred or defiance of Australian law.

Muslim immigrants must be made to swear an oath of allegiance to Australia and its laws and culture. The oath must supersede all Islamic and Sharia law. Violation of that oath must carry penal provisions.

The subjugation of women, child sexual abuse (including under-age betrothal) and sexual mutilation under the guise of “culture”, must be made accountable for under current Australian law.
“Culture” must not be allowed as a defence or an excuse for any illegality.

The Burkah must be banned. (That’s a no brainer.)

Islam must be shown we will no longer tolerate its vile excesses. Islam interprets our weakness as the first sign of total acquiescence.

We cannot do a damned thing about the 30,000 unprocessed illegal immigrants of Gillard and Rudd. We’re stuck with them. If we ever call them in for processing, the ones who fail to respond are the only ones we’ll need to worry about.

There are 60,000 visa overstays here already who we have no way of locating.

Illegal maritime arrivals don’t simply chuck their papers overboard so we won’t know who they are, the lack of papers or ID makes it nigh impossible to deport them.

With 80 per cent of illegal arrivals on welfare weighing heavily on our already burgeoning culture of entitlement, we are slowly becoming insolvent.

Unless the Government takes a stand now, as governments in other battered countries have, the Islamic vote will, in a very few decades, dictate a new repulsive Australian “culture”.

In the meantime, if Abbott has control of the Senate by July, (and he is likely to have) he should look closely at reforming the judiciary to make it accountable to, rather than alien to, genuine public sentiment.


No comments: