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Monday 31 August 2015

Where are the voices against corruption?

With but a few hours to go before we find out Dyson Heydon's verdict on himself, what more can be said?  Everyone has been at it over the past few weeks.

In all the outrage about possible 'perception of apprehended bias' by the Royal Commissioner much of the commentariat has lost focus. As a result I feel a need to re-iterate what I believe are the core issues and why a change in commissioner at this time would not be in our common interest.
  • The TURC was set up to find Union corruption and it has succeeded. Several Union officials have already been charged and some 60 specific complaints against unionists are now under investigation with many likely to lead to charges. The TURC under DH has uncovered extensive criminality in many of our largest Unions.
  • The corrupt practices of their officials has had substantial impact on Union members. In cases where member funds have been misappropriated (HSU, CFMEU), members have no doubt borne the costs through membership fees. But even worse, in those cases where through 'sweetheart deals' Union(AWU) leaders negotiated away their members' benefits, members lost income. It is clearly not in members' interests to have corrupt Union officials. 
  • It has been argued by some, that the TURC was not necessary since 'criminal acts' by Union officials would have been picked up by existing law enforcement agencies. However the fact is that there has been no action by existing law enforcement bodies despite these offences stretching back over decades.
  • The Union movement has been trying to sabotage the TURC even before it started,  initially calling it a witch-hunt then more recently attacking the Royal Commissioner. Doesn't the Union movement and the ACTU want to eliminate corruption in its ranks? Where are the voices of the honest Union leaders who don't want corruption in their organisations? 
  • Similarly, ALP elected representatives in both state and federal governments, who always claim they are on the side of the workers, have joined if not preceded Unions' calls of 'witch-hunt' and bias. Aren't ALP MPs on the workers' side? I know of only one ALP ex parliamentarian, who has spoken out in favour of the TURC, and Martin Ferguson should be applauded for it. Nevertheless it begs the question why haven't we heard any current ALP MPs admonishing corrupt Union leaders and supporting the work of the TURC? 
  • Had the ALP taken an anti-corruption stance they would have earned the respect of the electorate and indeed the Unions' members. By not supporting the TURC, by calling for its commissioner to recuse himself, by calling for the TURC to be disbanded the ALP are siding with corrupt officials, against Unions' members and against the best interest of all Australians.
  • So too our media. While they see themselves as the objective last stand in the defence of truth, our collective media seem to have fallen far short of this ideal. Except for a handful of 'Right' leaning commentators the media have failed to stand in support of Union members and against Union corruption.
  • An attack on the 'umpire' during a game is unforgivable in any sport. Legitimate questions of bias can be, and often are, raised after the game is over when judgement is made in a objective manner. The attacks on DH should have been raised after the commission had completed its work. There would have been no downside in this, as DH's rulings are only the first step in the process and will always be tested in either parliament or in a court of law (see post 4 reasons why DH should stay).

No matter which way the decision by DH the tactic of attacking a serving Royal Commssioner while the commission is active will have consequences, including; -
  • As a direct result of the perceived success of the 'mass-media-outrage' tactic the commentariat, comprising mass media, social media, politicians and vested interests (Unions in this case), are more polarised than ever and more willing not to look objectively at any issue if it goes against their leanings. 
  • No Royal Commission into any matter which has a political implication will be able to do its work without loud open claims of bias. This tactic has been shown to work and therefore will be used again. This will be true even if DH stays. The laws related to criticism of Royal Commissioners has to be enforced to prevent this happening in future.
  • If DH leaves and a new RC is appointed, expect to hear the claims of bias again and again.

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