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Dick Pratt, Macquarie Bank and Bill Shorten…join the dots

The Sunday program’s Ross Coulthart has been in touch to debunk my story in Monday’s Crikey (item 28) and stress that the only source of information for his cover-story attack on the Transport Workers Union came from within the union itself – and mostly from serving officials.

Ross says that there was absolutely no influence from either PBL or Qantas and that Sunday would have gone equally hard against Bill Shorten’s AWU, even though PBL Media does have a printing deal for the AWU magazine. I accept that completely, but there is an interesting juxtaposition between Shorten, who is quite chummy with James Packer, and claims the TWU was receiving benefits from employers that might have coloured their judgment during industrial negotiations.

Pamela Williams produced a fascinating profile of Shorten in The AFR on Tuesday in which the scale of Dick Pratt’s generosity to the incoming Labor MP and aspiring prime minister was revealed for the first time.

The AWU has many members across Dick Pratt’s vast industrial empire, yet here is the head of their union borrowing the billionaire’s corporate jet to duck down to Beaconsfield, staying in his New York apartment and having his engagement party at his Melbourne mansion. This is not to suggest for a moment that the AWU has emulated the TWU’s bogus training fund.

It was also interesting that Shorten recommended Pam Williams speak to Macquarie Bank CEO Allan Moss for the profile, but he declined to comment. That was probably because the two had dealings during the Beaconsfield goldmine collapse when Shorten became a national figure and the tough Macquarie Bankers announced their windfall gain from the mine would be donated to a workers trust.

The circumstances behind that windfall is still being fought out in the ACT Supreme Court and The Australian has now run the story on page one for three days straight.

Shorten certainly extracted a good deal out of Macquarie for the Beaconsfield workers and he was no doubt helped by The Australian’s campaign against the millionaire factory.

That is borne out by this extract from Tuesday’s evidence by Macquarie Bank’s Jonathan Rourke:

The Australian went pretty soft on the story for a while, I think when we first started suing them, and Michael (West) was certainly taken off the case. But I guess most particularly what I’m referring to is the articles they wrote since and most particularly immediately after the Anzac Day rock fall, which again I thought quite outrageous.

There was a rock fall at the mine on 25 April 2006 and The Australian saw fit to basically run a fairly, I thought it was a pretty nasty campaign during the following week….it was an attempt by The Australian to try to soften us up to settle this case.

They certainly settled with Bill Shorten very quickly, but the fight with The Australian continues. Interestingly, the Murdoch empire is not offering up any journalists or editors to give evidence.

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