Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Trade union royal commission hears allegations of bullying, harassment culture at Health Services Union

A royal commission into trade unions has heard fresh allegations of a culture of bullying, harassment and intimidation within the Health Services Union (HSU).

The Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption has so far focused on the affairs of the union's number 3 branch in Victoria between 2003 and 2010, but has now turned its attention to the conduct of officers in the number 1 branch.

The hearing was told Marco Bolano and Diana Asmar ran for the position of branch secretary in late 2012.

Ms Asmar won the vote, but the role of assistant secretary went to Leonie Flynn, who ran on Mr Bolano's ticket.

What followed was a period of tension between the two office holders, with Ms Flynn alleging she was threatened by Ms Asmar.

Counsel assisting the commission Jeremy Stoljar SC said he had received damning evidence.

"They raise allegations against Ms Asmar of breaches of union rules and a culture of bullying, harassment and intimidation," he told the hearing.

Mr Stoljar said the role of assistant secretary "carries with it significant responsibilities", including management of financial affairs.

Ms Flynn said Ms Asmar obstructed her from performing her required duties by threatening to "have the rules changed" through the branch committee of management "for her to have financial control".

The commission has also heard allegations concerning Ms Asmar's approach to Right of Entry Permits.

The permits were issued by the Fair Work Commission and allow the holder to enter and remain on an employers' premises.
HSU staffer 'deeply uncomfortable' with carrying out instruction

Applicants must undertake training and sit an online test, but the hearing was told Ms Asmar instructed other members of staff to sit the tests "on behalf of other employees and organisers".

One of those staff members, Peggy Lee, has told the commission she carried out the instruction despite being "deeply uncomfortable" with it.

"Because of the pressure I felt I was under while at the branch, I actually completed Right of Entry tests for other people knowing it was wrong to do so," her statement to the commission read.

The Fair Work Commission was also investigating the matter after it received a complaint in September 2013.

Ms Asmar is expected to give evidence tomorrow.

She released a statement saying the allegations of wrongdoing and bullying against her were false and had been made by people with ulterior motives.

She said the claims were made by people with an election agenda and she was looking forward to setting the record straight when she fronted the inquiry.

Outside the commission she denied the claims.  "Are you a bully?" a journalist asked.   "Definitely not. Look forward to proving they're lies," Ms Asmar said.

Mr Stoljar said the branch went through "fraught and bitter" times between 2006 and 2009, when Jeff Jackson held the position of branch secretary.

Mr Jackson is the ex-husband of HSU national secretary Kathy Jackson.

Ms Flynn is currently on leave from her position as assistant secretary of the branch.

Kathy Jackson to appear again at commission

During the last hearing in July, the royal commission questioned Ms Jackson about a slush fund account in which members' money was allegedly used to pay off her personal credit cards.

The National Health Development Account (NHDA) was first set up in 2003 with a $250,000 payment from the Peter McCallum Cancer Institute.

The commission has been told that until 2010 funds from the number 3 branch bank account were transferred to the NHDA "on Ms Jackson's instructions".

Ms Jackson told the July hearing she could not recall details about a $50,000 payment she authorised from the NHDA.

She asked for legal representation when pressed about the matter by Mr Stoljar.

Mr Stoljar produced evidence that the money was paid to Mr Jackson and asked her why she did not disclose that.

Ms Jackson told the commission she had been "ambushed".

Ms Jackson is one of 24 witnesses expected to give evidence in Sydney in this latest hearing and will appear later this week.

The HSU is one of five unions being scrutinised by the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption.


Construction sector plagued by phoenix tax, pay dodges

Some of Australia's biggest construction projects are being probed by regulators in relation to claims of corruption and tax avoidance.

The Australian Tax Office (ATO) and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) are paying special attention to what is known as phoenix activity in the construction sector, where companies go into liquidation to avoid paying entitlements to their staff.

The ATO and ASIC have joined forces with the Fair Work Building and Construction directorate to examine illegal phoenix scams which are costing as much as $3.2 billion per year.
Audio: Listen to Peter Ryan's report. (AM)

The investigations will also examine allegations that some scams in the construction industry have links to organised crime.

ASIC commissioner Greg Tanzer told the ABC's AM program that the phoenix activity was focused on "off-the-books" sectors such as transport, security and cleaning services.

"Our intelligence suggests that there's a range of issues that arise in the construction industry," he said.

"What we're finding is that there is a disproportionately large number of cases perhaps because of the nature of the industry and the number of workers involved in those industries but, whatever the reason, it seems to be a target for this type of activity.

"We have found that the construction industry is a particular hotspot for phoenix company activity, and this affects not just the employees in the construction industry who might be affected directly because their superannuation entitlements might not be paid, or their leave entitlements might not be paid.

"But also, critically, other contractors - sub-contractors and sometimes head contractors - are affected by companies going out of business, doing so intentionally with the absolute deliberate intent of defrauding all of those creditors and employees."
Phoenixing costs up to $3.2 billion

Consulting firm PwC, in a study for the Fair Work Commission in 2012, found that illegal phoenix activity costs between $1.2 billion and $3.2 billion per year.

"From our perspective, we see just far too many individual problems that are caused by this type of activity, because it doesn't need to be a large amount of money if you've been gutted out of your leave entitlements or your superannuation entitlements," Mr Tanzer said.

ASIC has commenced a wide ranging program aimed at the construction industry in which 6,000 smaller companies were targeted, and hundreds visited, to be reminded that heavy penalties apply for proven phoenix activity.

Mr Tanzer said the investigations would examine claims that organised crime is involved in construction sector corruption.

"We are concerned that the construction industry in particular seems to be a target for this type of activity and it really can be quite pernicious and cause very serious effects for the employees and the other creditors of companies that phoenix," he added.

Phoenix activity, where a company "rises from the ashes" of liquidation, without paying taxes or entitlements, is constantly in the sights of ASIC and the ATO.

Greg Tanzer told AM that such activity appears to increase during softer economic times, such as those being experienced now.


Muslim apologists blind to radical reality

A motley group of some 60 self-proclaimed Muslim organisations or self-appointed leaders garnered publicity Wednesday with their snubbing of Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s offer to discuss proposed changes to terrorist laws.

The ABC and Fairfax lapped it up.

But anyone who took the time to see who organised the ban and who signed up to its idiocy would have realised that the signatories did themselves a serious disservice.

Among those on the list was Hizb ut-Tahrir Australia, which supports honour killings, the Perth-based Aboriginal convert Mohammed Junaid Thorne who enjoys the support of extremist organisation Millatu Ibrahim, banned in Germany because of its ties to mass murder in Iraq, and the Sydney book shop al-Risalah, which has claimed its imam is terrorist Bilal Khazal who is serving a 12-year sentence for promoting violence against non-Muslims.

Muslim Leaders including Sheikh Isse Musse (centre right) leave Treasury Place in Melbourne after a meeting with Tony Abbott last week.
Organiser of the ban was self-anointed community activist and Muslim convert Rebecca Kay, who re-Tweets propaganda from the Hamas terrorist organisation and is married to a brother of notorious drug boss Abdul Darwiche, who was gunned down outside a Bass Hill service station five years ago.

The usual medley of Muslim student organisations also signed on, along with an assortment of imams, who, according to Kay, believe the proposed changes target Muslims unjustly – though she admits that the language of the law is neutral.

She says that in practise these laws will target Muslims because of a “trumped up” threat from “radicalised” Muslims returning from Irag or Syria.

She claims there is no solid evidence to substantiate this threat – despite the Facebook postings of various Australian-born murderers who have joined the murderous Islamic State posing with weapons and severed heads in their selfie videos.

The home-grown risk is real, as the British have discovered to their cost

She goes on to say that “racist caricatures of Muslims as backwards, prone to violence and inherently problematic are being exploited”, presumably a reference to psychiatrist Tanveer Ahmed’s prescient view that “there remains a marked difference in the way males are raised within some Lebanese groups which predisposes them to greater acts of anti-social behaviour” and his observation from studying Arab youths in prison that “there is a rampant anti-social character to some youths from this segment which stems in part from unsuccessful child rearing. The horrific moves towards terror acts can be seen as an ideological extension of a propensity towards bad behaviour, combined with an unshakable victim mentality.”

Kay and her followers haven’t come to terms with the hard evidence of beheadings of children as well as adults, crucifixions, and mass murder of fellow Muslims as well as the slaughter of apostates, Christians and other non-Muslims in areas where Australia’s terror tourists are at large.

The home-grown risk is real, as the British have discovered to their cost.

It’s now a dozen years since Omar Sheikh, a London-born private school and London School of Economics graduate, was in Pakistan after fighting in the Balkans and Kashmir. Ten years ago he was arrested and jailed for assisting in the kidnapping of three Britons and an American in India.

After being released in 1999 in exchange for the passengers and crew of the hijacked Air India flight IC-814, he was connected to the bombing of an American cultural centre in Calcutta in January 2002 and that same month organised the kidnapping and beheading of the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.

Muslim leaders including Sheikh Isse Musse (centre) were involved in meetings with Prime Minister Tony Abbott last week.
In 2003, two British Muslims Asif Hanif and Omar Khan Sharif carried out a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv on behalf of Hamas, which Ms Kay gives succour to via her Twitter account.

Four British Islamist terrorists killed 52 civilians on July 7, 2005 in the first suicide bombings to take place in Britain. The former head of the Islamic Society at University College London, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, attempted to explode his “underwear” bomb on a plane as it landed in Detroit on Christmas Day, 2009. He was a follower of Anwar al-Awlaki, who was later killed in an American drone attack in Yemen three years ago.

Ms Kay’s claims are unsupportable. There is no reason why Australia is under any lesser threat from home-grown terrorists than Britain, the US, Belgium, the Netherlands or France – or Indonesia.

In an important interview with The Australian, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono condemned violent Islamist extremism, labelling the actions of the Islamic State terror group as “embarrassing” and “humiliating” to the religion.

His government has banned the ISIS (now known as the Islamic State), which is supported by some of the signatories to Ms Kay’s statement, and called for respect for all religions – which some of Ms Kay’s supporters reject.

Acknowledging the reality that Ms Kay rubbishes, President Yudhoyono said a number of Indonesians have joined IS to fight in Syria and Iraq.

“Our citizens here in Indonesia are picking up recruitment messages from ISIS containing extremist ideas,” he said.

“The philosophy of ISIS stands against the fundamental values we embrace in Indonesia. Last Friday, in my state of the union address to the nation, I called on all Indonesians to reject ISIS and to stop the spread of its radical ideology.

“My government and security agencies have taken decisive steps to curtail the spread of ISIS in Indonesia, including by prohibiting Indonesians to join ISIS or to fight for ISIS, and also by blocking internet sites that promote this idea.”

Yet Ms Kay and her group are opposed to less radical actions proposed by the Abbott government.

It would appear that in Indonesia, which has the largest Islamic population of any nation, community leaders are helping the government communicate to their members the dangers of ISIS.

Which demonstrates just how isolated Muslims like Ms Kay and her radical supporters are from the rational world in their blind refusal to engage on the obvious problems of the radicalisation of young members of the Australian Muslim community.


Brisbane woman Kym Garrick banned from Port of Brisbane job over 'Coal Dust Free' car sticker

The Port of Brisbane has banned a security guard for displaying an anti-coal industry sign in her car.

Kym Garrick's employer Corporate Protection Australia Group fired her from her job at the port earlier this month, telling her it was because she displayed a sign that read "Coal Dust Free Brisbane".

Ms Garrick said she was warned about the sign by staff at the Port of Brisbane and initially removed it, then changed her mind and put it back.

"I felt angry, frustrated and belittled. Also, this is a democracy and I wanted to have my say on something that I truly believe should happen," she said.

The security guard has now been banned from all five of the Port of Brisbane's sites.

In a letter to Ms Garrick, Corporate Protection Australia Group said: "We acknowledge you did remove the sign, but recently returned to site with this sign displayed again. The Port of Brisbane have advised us that you are unfortunately banned from their sites."

A spokesman for the Port of Brisbane said the company would not be making any comment on the issue.

Corporate Protection Australia Group has confirmed Ms Garrick is no longer working for the firm.

A spokesman said she was removed from work at the port due to a security risk.

Ms Garrick reacted angrily, saying: "They don't want anyone to ruffle their feathers."

The security company has offered Ms Garrick another contract to work at a different site, which she has declined.

She has received legal advice that because of that offer, her chances at winning an unfair dismissal claim are slim.


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