Bill Shorten and his supporters are a major target for the Trade Union Royal Commission in 2015. While the Royal Commission did not expressly name Bill Shorten it did mention matters that involve him and also his Labor Unity factional supporters at the Health Services Union (HSU).
On Thursday (23/4/15) at the 2015 Opening Session Commissioner Dyson Heydon said his final report would also deal with some matters relating to:
“the Australian Workers Union (concerning Chiquita Mushrooms) and the HSU Victoria No 1 Branch under the secretaryship of Ms Diana Asmar.” (Click here to read the full opening remarks by Commissioner Heydon)
The Chiquita Mushrooms scandal was investigated by the Royal Commission to a degree last year and involved Bill Shorten when he was National Secretary at the AWU.
The Age reported: “Labor leader Bill Shorten faces his biggest test yet before the trade union royal commission with claims he oversaw an employment deal that lowered wages for hundreds of mushroom pickers in return for unusual payments to the union he led at the time.” (Click here to read more)
Mr Shorten never gave evidence but if the Royal Commission is going to investigate the matter further then one of the key places left would be Bill Shorten and his involvement. This will put extreme pressure on Bill Shorten to either give evidence voluntarily or for the Royal Commission to subpoena him as a witness. The Royal Commission never made any findings last year in relation to Chiquita Mushrooms but they will this year. This would be a major concern for Bill Shorten and the Labor Party as the finding will probably be made public next year which is an election year.
HSU Victoria No 1 Branch (Trades as the HWU). The branch is controlled and run by Bill Shorten’s supporters
The Royal Commission will look at some matters regarding “the HSU Victoria No 1 Branch under the secretaryship of Ms Diana Asmar.” This could mean many things and one of the likely areas for further investigation would be the financial fraud I wrote about in February in an article titled: “Bill Shorten’s supporters involved in multi-million-$ fraud at the HSU“.
In that article I compared the 2013/2014 financial statements which showed very suspicious blow-outs in spending in many areas. I wrote in the post:
“I am not an accountant but even I can see the evidence of the scams they were running. For example wages in the 2013 financial year were $1,820,807 and blew out to $3,451,989 in the 2014 financial year. This is a massive increase of $1,631,182 and consistent with the fact that we knew that Asmar and crew were employing Labor Party and Union cronies to work at the union. In practice they did very little work except to collect their pay. A prime example would be Kitching who was employed as General Manager on a package of about $120,000 yet did very little if anything. She has since left I understand trying to avoid the criminal charges that were recommended against her by the Royal Commission.”
And: “I have been told in the last few months up to 13 staff have been sacked as the Branch is rapidly running out of money and has very few assets left to sell to keep them going.”
“On paper it says they made a $735,745 profit for the 2014 year but in fact they really made a loss when the sale of their building is taken into account. The building was sold, without the approval of members, for a reported profit of $2,238,012 but if Andrew Landeryou was involved it is highly likely that some profit was skimmed off the top.”
“Take the $2,238,012 profit from the sale of the building out of the 2014 finances and the reported $735,745 profit becomes a $1,502,267 loss. This financial year they have no building to sell so that is why they have been sacking staff to try and avoid bankruptcy. They have been selling assets to fleece the union and its members.” (Click here to read the full article)
Other areas that the Royal Commission may investigate are the roles of Diana Asmar’s husband David Asmar and Kimberley Kitching’s husband Andrew Landeryou. Both Mr Asmar and Mr Landeryou were named at the Royal Commission last year. Diana Asmar gave evidence that Mr Asmar was the brains and organiser behind Mrs Asmar’s election campaigns.
Also, Victorian Labor state MP Cesar Melhem gave evidence that he paid money from his 2020 slush fund to help with Diana Asmar’s election. Andrew Landeryou was also the recipient of money from the slush fund, Mr Melham said in the witness stand. Neither Mr Asmar nor Mr Landeryou have given evidence on the matter which could happen this year.
Both Mr Asmar and Mr Landeryou are well-known vote riggers which might also be an area of interest for the RC given Mrs Asmar won the Victoria No 1 Branch union election last year with 93% of the vote. No one gets 93% of the vote except in countries where they have dictators or when an election has been rigged. At the time Mrs Asmar won the election everyone knew she was facing possible criminal charges which the RC has recommended against her and she is currently before the Fair Work Commission on civil charges. So it is extremely hard to see how she managed to get 93% of the vote.
The reason why this is important and a matter of public interest is because it is people like the ones at the HSU Victoria Number 1 Branch such as the Asmar’s, Landeryou and Kitching that Bill Shorten will take to Canberra with him if he is elected Prime Minister. They will be helping Shorten run Australia. So who and what they are does matter. Given their performance at the HSU do we really want them running the country?
Kathy Jackson and Craig Thomson
The Royal Commission announced they will also look further at the Kathy Jackson allegations and former federal Labor MP Craig Thomson as well. Neither has any hope of ending up as Prime Minister, so while investigating them is important they are only side issues compared to Bill Shorten and his supporters.
TURC Police Task Force – Phone taps
Counsel Assisting Jeremy Stoljar SC announced in his opening address on Thursday that:
“The Commission’s activities during the first months of 2015 have continued on a number of fronts.”
“First, the Commission has been involved in the establishment the TURC Police Task Force, with officers drawn from the AFP, and the police forces of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland.”
“The Task Force is independent of the Commission and operates under its own command. At the same time it will work in conjunction with and in support of the Commission.” (Click here to read the full opening remarks by Counsel Assisting Jeremy Stoljar SC)
The Royal Commission on Thursday again raised the amount of perjury and destruction of evidence by the witnesses such as the emails destroyed by the NSW CFMEU and how this undermined the work of the Commission. This would clearly justify phone taps and now the commission has its own police task force it is almost guaranteed that is what they have been doing for the last couple of months. Phone taps by the Royal Commission would certainly make some interesting evidence.
It will be a few months before witnesses in the AWU/ Chiquita Mushrooms and the HSU matters are called before Royal Commission but I have no doubt it will be well worth the wait. People involved in those matters should watch what they say on the phone although it is probably too late now.
Bill Shorten was named many times in 2014 at the Royal Commission by numerous witnesses in unrelated matters so it no surprise he would be targeted further by the RC whether deliberately or not. The Royal Commission should have a big year and I will report on it regularly.
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