Brad Norrington’s item in The Australian
today, “PM’s $4m poll deal with union,” has had me tripping down memory lane.

“John Howard won the support of timber
workers for his vote-winning Tasmanian forests policy just three days before
last year’s election with an agreement to pay $4 million to a union-controlled
company,” he writes.

“The taxpayer-funded deal was negotiated
between the Prime Minister’s office and the leader of the forestry union,
Michael O’Connor, with the millions earmarked for skills and training.”

Well, yes. That’s well-established practice.
I worked in the construction industry for a couple of years. A lot of my former
colleagues had their careers finished by the Cole Inquiry for doing just the
same thing as the Prime Minister seems to have done. These blokes were spivs
and shonks, but the CFMEU is more like a protection racket than a union – and that’s
the way you buy the people who run it off.

The now infamous rally with the PM and
timber workers has always been portrayed as a last minute job. However, how
long does it take to organise a political meeting with thousands of forestry
workers from all over Tasmania being bussed in for the day?

Also, if it was last minute, what was CFMEU
heavy Scott McLean doing proposing a vote of no-confidence in Mark Latham at a
protest in front of the national media on the Monday before the election? Perhaps we need another Royal Commission.

PS: McLean is on the National Executive of the ALP. Do the
bruvvers pat him down before meetings to see if he’s wearing a wire?

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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