Rotten to the core …


ICAC confirms Labor hid papers from MPs

ALMOST 900 pages of explosive documents concerning an allegedly corrupt coal deal were concealed from state parliament by the former NSW Labor government and its senior bureaucrats.

The documents, brought to light by the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption, were not given to the state upper house in November 2009, when it demanded all relevant papers relating to a coal-exploration licence at Mount Penny, about 125km west of Newcastle.

In hearings that ran for more than three months and concluded last week, the ICAC heard allegations the licence was granted corruptly by disgraced former NSW resources minister Ian Macdonald to advantage his Labor colleague and ally Eddie Obeid by as much as $175 million …

Where is the health inspector … ?

Nothing shonky here, folks, move right along.

Mr Sheldon, secretary of the Transport Workers Union and Labor’s national vice-president, recently had this to say about the scandal-plagued NSW Right faction of the ALP …

“Like cockroaches, B-grade politicians are able to thrive on the corruption and detritus that lies under the dishwasher,”

“Our crisis is more than just a crisis of trust brought on by the corrupt behaviour of property scammers and lobbyists,”

“It’s a crisis of belief brought on by a lack of moral and political purpose.”

Now, friends in high places, or under the dishwasher can be very valuable. A gift from a close personal friend could earn a well placed guy a $1oom, say. And a gift from a close personal friend wouldn’t need to be declared on the parliamentary register of pecuniary interests.

Eddy and co own a resort at Perisher, in peak season apartments at the Stables can cost as much as $2690 for a weekend.

Senator Conroy, on his first full day as the Gillard government’s Senate leader, admits he and his family enjoyed free hospitality at Perisher, not declared because it was a personal gift, which must make him a good friend.

There are a few good friends around, I notice former senator Arbib gets a mention. Tony Burke, minister for sustainability stayed a couple of times. And of course Mr MacDonald was a very, very good friend and honoured guest.

Mr Shorten denies being a friend, apparently skiing is among the things he can’t do.


Julia loves Craig …

Jules announced the election date yesterday, an extraordinarily early release. Graham Richardson thought it a pretty dumb move because it enabled the Liberal Party to plan its timetable with precision. He was moved to say …

I just can’t follow why this Labor government and this Prime Minister does what it does. It is a mystery to me and to millions of Australians as well.

Among the reasons bandied about as to why, were a couple that made sense, it makes it harder for a challenge from Mr. Rudd and it provides an excuse for deferring any by elections until September. Hence the government can’t be brought down if one of the people it relies on should be hauled off to jail.

Today one of those people was arrested and it seems will soon be facing 149 cases of fraud. His lawyer stressed that only a small proportion of the alleged offences involved paying for prostitutes with other people’s money.

So, remarkable timing from our Julia … does she have contacts in the NSW Police or perhaps Channel 7?

Slush puppies …

The HSU scandal moves at a glacial pace towards the courts …

While Mr Thomson may have been in technical breach of some of the union rules, it is expected he will argue he was acting within the normal ethical flexibility given to officials, and that the same practices occurred in every other union.

Spending union funds on prostitutes would require considerable ethical flexibility and surely there can’t be other unions displaying such flexibility. Well, setting aside the AWU, of course in the famous case where a female lawyer provided (free) legal assistance to her boyfriend of the time, in order to set up a slush fund. The lady in question is on the record as saying it was for re-election purposes of said boyfriend, she did not benefit from it, she didn’t know funds were being diverted to such ends as buying houses etc. She is not on the record regarding the answers to some questions put to her about these events.

The ALP is in no rush to set up an enquiry regarding the flexibility to be found in every other union. This is no great surprise when you consider that the Union movement provides almost all the funds for the government’s electioneering and virtually all the members of the parliamentary party. This sorry affair is still not over, but even as the Prime Minister ducks and weaves hissing slime and sleaze, more evidence of flexibility floats to the surface …

AWU Victorian secretary Cesar Melhem has reportedly confirmed that a non-profit company he runs, called Industry 2020, has raised some $500,000 since 2008 to help fund the political activities of the Right faction sub-group within the ALP.

Among the organisation’s spending was a “significant’ outlay of funds during the bitter Health Services Union (HSU) election in 2009, according to Fairfax.

As workplace relations minister at the time, Ms Gillard reportedly served as a guest speaker at Industry 2020’s inaugural fund-raising lunch, which raised about $250,000, nearly half of which was profit.

Goodness, AWU Mark ll. Senator Abetz suggests that …

“What this shows is that the Labor party are fully immersed in this culture of slush funds. That is why they are so paralysed in dealing with the HSU (Health Services Union) scandal and the (1990s) AWU scandal – because they basically know that everybody’s into it and they’re all into it together.”

Senator Abetz said it was “unbelievable” that some of the current AWU slush fund was used to finance an HSU election campaign in 2009.

While such behaviour might be technically legal it was morally wrong, he said.

“For the deputy prime minister of the time to be so associated with such an inappropriate fund is completely unacceptable”.


The sweet smell …

Michelle Grattan in today’s Age

LABOR Senator John Faulkner can always get public attention when he talks about party reform. But as he’d be the first to admit, it’s quite another matter to get something meaningful done.

In his devastating critique this week, Faulkner homed in particularly on New South Wales, where appalling tales of misdeeds in the Labor years have been aired at the Independent Commission Against Corruption. His messages about loosening the factional system and the like, however, are also relevant to Labor nationally and follow the post-2010 election review of which he was co-author, with Bob Carr and Steve Bracks.

Faulkner’s argument that factions should not be allowed to bind MPs in caucus votes is a no-brainer.

The NSW problem should be separated from the wider reform debate. It’s urgent that Labor there must not just change but be seen to have changed.

This week the Left in NSW, at Faulkner’s instigation, took the extraordinary step of issuing a public apology for preselecting former Labor state resources minister Ian Macdonald, accused of colluding in the granting of coal exploration licences to benefit the family of Eddie Obeid, former upper house member, by up to a staggering $100 million.

Getting a lot of reform done quickly in NSW matters for federal Labor, facing an election next year. Big anti-Labor swings in 2010 have left a swag of seats on very thin margins. The corruption stench gives swinging voters one more reason not to vote Labor.

Reform nationally is a more complicated issue. Corruption is not the problem.

Corruption is not the problem? The ALP and the Union movement is riddled with corruption … one of Julia’s former boyfriends stands accused of ripping off the AWU via a slush fund that Julia helped through its birth process. One of the rising stars that helped Julia succeed Kevin Rudd, senator Mark Arbib, resigned unexpectedly back in February 2012. He is linked with the Obeid scandal currently before ICAC. By an odd coincidence when in Canberra Mr Arbib shared a residence with Alexandra Williamson, a staffer in the office of the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard,and the daughter of  Michael Williamson of HSU fame and recent National President of the ALP. Who in the ALP would like to see the rest of the iceberg exposed?

Which fearless reporter will turn over a few rocks? Clearly not Michelle Grattan.

Dismission …

Your dismission, should you choose to accept it …

Over the past 11 years, I have been called upon to investigate many people for workplace misconduct. The hardest people to investigate are high-achieving, high-profile women executives. Their starting position is always a haughty refusal to answer questions or participate in investigations they consider beneath them. Next they attempt to retain control by trying to impose their conditions and time frames on the investigation. They attempt to distract from their own conduct by focusing on the poor conduct of others. Some flail about, claiming the status of bullying or sexism victim.

A must read from Grace Collier, chief executive of Australian Dismissal Services, in the Fin Review … good to see a Fairfax paper covering this issue.

Nicci Rox …

THE nation’s chief law maker Nicola Roxon is totally satisfied the prime minister did not act improperly over the setting up of a union slush fund.

Julia Gillard has consistently denied she did anything wrong or personally benefited from setting up the Australian Workers Union Workplace Reform Association for her then partner Bruce Wilson while working as a lawyer in the 1990s.

Ms Gillard has conceded the association was a slush fund that Wilson and other union officials used to fund their re-election campaign.

She told West Australian authorities the purpose of the association was for training and workplace safety.

Federal Attorney-General Nicola Roxon says allegations against Ms Gillard are unwarranted.

“I’m totally satisfied that Julia had not done anything improper or anything unlawful and in fact no actual allegation of impropriety is being made against her,” Ms Roxon told ABC radio.

I wonder how much comfort that gives our Julia given the company it puts her in …

Ms Roxon was asked whether Mr Thomson should be suspended from the ALP until the matter is resolved.

“It’s an option in theory, and maybe as things develop,” she said.

“But we haven’t had actually any content. There’s been all this swirling allegation [but] no one actually is aware of what is being alleged in detail.”

And she was vigorously defending Mr Slipper after having every opportunity to read the emails that ensured he had no prospect of a defense …

On Tuesday night, it emerged during a Senate estimates hearing that the Attorney-General was briefed on June 9 about the hundreds of dubious or distasteful text messages sent by Slipper to his staffer James Ashby.

Four days later, on June 13, Roxon instructed the Solicitor-General to seek to have Ashby’s case struck out. She also gave instructions to seek a waiver for the government to be allowed to use the texts to have Ashby sacked.

Also on June 13, in a further attempt to shut down the case, the government offered to pay damages to Ashby to settle his sexual harassment claim.

Two days later, despite her knowledge of the scale and nature of the texts sent by Slipper, the Attorney-General held a press conference and said this: ”The Commonwealth strongly believes that this process has been one which is really for an ulterior purpose … the Commonwealth has obtained a vast amount of material … It will be clearly shown … that there were in fact clear intentions to harm Mr Slipper and to bring his reputation into disrepute and to assist his political opponents and that was the purpose for the bringing of this claim.”

The political mischief in this case has never been in doubt. What was misleading about the Attorney-General’s statement was that the ”vast amount of material” was not merely vexatious. It buttressed a sexual harassment claim. It was also political dynamite.

Roxon also said something that was untrue: ”We aren’t bringing a strike-out application; Mr Slipper is.”

The shadow attorney-general, Senator George Brandis, told me yesterday: ”These texts, on any view, contain dozens of instances of predatory sexual conduct. So the Attorney-General’s claim that this was merely a vexatious case was extraordinary. Any person who read the texts would know instantly that Ashby had a case.

So, Ms Roxon, do you really believe it was entirely kosher to set up a slush fund? Do you believe Ms Gillard was present when Mr Blewitt signed the power of attorney that she witnessed? Did Mr Hem drop five grand in her bank account? Was her house renovated with proceeds of the slush fund? Do you think she may have withheld details of a swindle from her client the AWU? Do the missing documents cause you no concern?

Or is it the case that Julia is exactly as innocent as the other people you have recently defended?