Sep 12, 2016

Six months later, trade union royal commission looks like a bad joke

The trade union royal commission increasingly looks like a white elephant, writes economist John Quiggin.

When Dyson Heydon delivered his report, as royal commissioner, of the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption, he claimed that his findings represented “the tip of the iceberg”. At the time, I commented that, given the nearly $50 million of public money spent on the commission, plus its lengthy hearings governed by the exceptional powers of a royal commission, the Australian public was entitled to expect the whole iceberg. It turns out that I was too charitable. In the months since the commission reported, a string of the charges he recommended have been thrown out or withdrawn. In fact, six months later, there has only been one conviction, resulting in a suspended sentence. The only big fish to be caught since the establishment of Heydon’s star chamber has been the commission’s own star witness, Kathy Jackson. And the bills keep coming in. The last budget allocated $6 million more for the AFP-Victorian Police taskforce, which currently has outstanding cases against a grand total of six unionists. By contrast, taskforce Argo in Queensland, focused on child exploitation, has a budget of $3 million. For another contrast, here are a few of the cases of alleged wage fraud, misappropriation of worker entitlements and so on that have emerged since Heydon’s Commission was launched: 7-Eleven, Queensland Nickel, Pizza Hut, Myers and Spotless, and lots of small employers in the agricultural sector. That’s on top of the general run of sharp practiceenvironmental vandalism, market rigging, and dubious practices of all kinds. It would be absurd to deny the existence of corrupt union officials and, though it is much rarer, systemic corruption, as in the case of the Health Services Union. But the continued failure of a massively expensive, politically motivated inquisition to turn up more than a handful of cases suggests that the problems are isolated, and that the real drive is to attack unions for doing the job of representing workers. *This article was originally published at John Quiggin's blog

Free Trial

Proudly annoying those in power since 2000.

Sign up for a FREE 21-day trial to keep reading and get the best of Crikey straight to your inbox

By starting a free trial, you agree to accept Crikey’s terms and conditions


Leave a comment

8 thoughts on “Six months later, trade union royal commission looks like a bad joke

  1. Aethelstan

    One conviction resulting in a suspended sentence … what an expensive lot of sound and fury signifying almost nothing … another epic fail by the extreme right …

    1. Dog's Breakfast

      A tale, told by an idiot, dear Aethelstan.

      Thank you for reminding us of this astounding success Professor Quiggin.

  2. klewso

    $50 million? Imagine what sort of production of The Crucible the Limited News Party Players could have put on with that?
    Michaelia Cash – the Ethel Merman of Australian politics – could have played Abigail Williams….. “Everything’s Coming up Roses” at the mass hangings?

    1. Aethelstan

      Hi Klewso … Ethel Merman … Well maybe … but Michaelia Cash always looks like someone out of Star Wars to me …

      1. klewso

        I’m just going on her voice – and her ‘acting’ – aka Flying High?

  3. Jimbo

    Turnbull forgot the Heydon Royal Commission in his list of achievements.

  4. AR

    It took some pretty fancy footwork not to indict so many at the BigAr$e end of town – the bribes, briders & bribees.

  5. Itsarort

    Sooo, what tangible outcomes can we reasonably expect from a Royal Commission into the banking sector?

Share this article with a friend

Just fill out the fields below and we'll send your friend a link to this article along with a message from you.

Your details

Your friend's details