It won’t wash, Malcolm. It never has.

With the release of the TURC report Turnbull and Heydon are trying to sell the idea that unions are systemically corrupt, even perhaps that they can’t be anything else but corrupt, because the rules of their governance are so slack. Turnbull has seen this as his chance to out-Abbott Abbott, brilliantly taking Abbott’s Royal Commission and using it as a way of both protecting his back and further ingratiating himself with an adoring public. The Turnbull Enlightenment has never been so optimistic.

In effect, the entire union movement, and anyone associated with them has been collectively smeared. No partisanship here. Move along please.


Predictably, the media – who have been running a slightly snarky, hipster line in the background on the Commission’s relevance and reliability – have cast aside all doubts and are now calling for Reform!

The SMH editorial yesterday was a particularly perfect example of this. It had two-bob each way: criticise the conduct of the Commission, but accept wholeheartedly its findings, as if the two can be neatly considered separately. What was unofficial yesterday is official today. Like Dyson Heydon or not, now we must “Do Something”. In telling us Labor and the union movement have been a giant con job foisted on the public since they took workplace issues into politics, the SMH, nowadays more obsessed with trivia, young gels in trouble from texting too much, airline horror stories, and celebrity click bait, got a bad attack of Teh Serious, and told us:

The great Labor-union con job exposed

The Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption began hearings 20 months ago when the Herald, like so many others, felt angry and cheated by unions and their Labor Party mates. The royal commission’s damning final report released on Wednesday will only inflame that anger and entrench a sense that the broader community has been conned.

The con has been committed not just by what federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten calls “a small number” of union leaders. It has been part of what commissioner Dyson Heydon calls “an enormous iceberg” of misconduct in a movement which allows room for “louts, thugs, bullies, thieves, perjurers, those who threaten violence, errant fiduciaries and organisers of boycotts”.

How union corruption figures in the next election depends solely on Mr Shorten. To win voter trust and survive as Labor leader, he needs to ditch the party’s rhetoric that this royal commission was only a political witch-hunt. True, the conflict of interest revealed by Justice Heydon in agreeing to give a Liberal-linked speech has forever diminished the standing of his findings. And the commissioner’s language at the start of the final report is remarkably strong for an otherwise reserved former High Court judge…

But no amount of criticism of Justice Heydon’s personal views can overcome the mountain of evidence against the labour movement.

Ah yes, the TURC was rotten, but Bill Shorten has-questions-to-answer and needs-to-do-certain-things. Is anybody frightened by this self-serving thunder? Once again a Fairfax paper has reverted to type, just like the glory days of the masthead, when old Sir Warwick would pontificate from his Darling Point mansion by the Harbour, railing against communists, Labor politicians and union thugs.

After over a year of “investigation” and the expenditure of $80 million dollars, with jobs-for-the-boys a plenty (Jeremy Stoljar is Dyson’s protege and chambers mate) Heydon managed to cobble together a few examples – most of them involving retired union reps settling old scores going back years (or even decades) – mixed in with some sensationalist celebrity victimization (Gillard, Shorten), to attempt to sell the idea of “systemic failure”. Then he extrapolated these few incidents out (most of which are yet to involve arrests, much less convictions) to claim that unionists are simply rotten human beings: “thugs, liars, perjurers”, even “louts”. What’s a “lout”? A minister who puts the hard word on junior female staffers in Hong Kong bars? Someone who stands under a sign that says “Bob Brown’s Bitch”? A Treasurer who smokes a Cuban cigar to celebrate breaking every election promise he ever made? I dunno. If being a lout is now a crime, then we’re going to need more courtrooms to handle the tsunami of accusations about to arrive.

At one point Heydon even said that some of this bad behaviour was so obvious it didn’t need evidence. As my old Dad used to say, “It’s ‘known’, son. It’s just ‘known'”, when I asked him a particularly ticklish question he didn’t have an answer for.

Sorry Dyson, it DOES need to be proved. You can’t extrapolate in such matters. People’s livelihoods and reputations are at stake. We saw what “assumptions” did to Julia Gillard and Bill Shorten, to name just two. Even though they have been completely exonerated, the media is predictably telling their readers and viewers that they STILL have questions to answer. When it gets to court, “It’s just… y’know…  the vibe, Your Honour” won’t wash.

Disappointingly, Turnbull has latched onto this “extrapolation” scam and is now claiming that he wants to improve unionism. How long until he claims that unionism has “no greater fried than Malcolm Turnbull”? I thought Tony Abbott wore that one out.

Some unions are too militant and some are not militant enough for Heydon’s liking. It seems that scoring high paying jobs for members, protecting their physical health, ensuring projects are finished on time and profitably isn’t enough nowadays. Bill Shorten should have taken the AWU out on strike and killed the freeway. He should have let the workers at the mushroom farm continue to cripple themselves with repetitive hand injuries. Would THAT have satisfied Heydon? I’m not sure, but it might have sated his fetish about nasty unions doing nasty things.

There is a body of thought that believes unions should be treated no differently than corporations. It started with the victimization of the Tolpuddle Martyrs and has festered until today. It will continue to fester. People who hold this belief think that because unions are societies that gather together to exert pressure on their employers, therein lie the seeds of “conspiracy”. A corporate competitor can do pretty-well what they like to harm their competition to advantage themselves, but the workers just need to cop it sweet, to slavishly accept whatever the bosses dole out to them… or go to jail. Heydon and his pals want to turn unions into friendly societies, not advocates for safety in the workplace and for decent pay and conditions. I’ve met a million like Heydon. He was the perfect choice: an academic lawyer who’s never had to do a real day’s work in his life, telling others how to organize their working lives.

It won’t wash, in my opinion. The TURC findings might seem important now, but they are not. In a sensation-deprived Xmas holiday period, the Report is what passes for “news”… as if an RC into union corruption was going to find anything other than unions are “corrupt”… that would have justified the $80 million, wouldn’t it? The more corrupt the better, in Heydon’s twisted logic. More bang for the buck.

There are plenty of other vital issues at stake in Australia: penalty rates, the GST, superannuation, mass unemployment, fair taxation. And who’s going to be foremost among those fighting these issues? The unions of course, and Labor. We need them, and the punters, in their hearts of hearts, know it. No-one has a job today, with the pay and conditions they take for granted, without a union at some stage being behind it, and fighting for it. After all, Labor’s decency and the fight the unions have fought are (ironically) part of why Turnbull is so successful in the polls. The punters love the glamour of Turnbull, but they know they can only afford to love it because Labor is there to protect them from his and his cronies’ excesses. Part of me wishes Labor would let some of the Coalition’s horrors through parliament, or even threaten to, to show the punters what they really voted for.

Every few years the Tories think that this time they’re going to get rid of the unions. Work Choices shows how wrong they were and continue to be. But salivating right-wingers, believing that they will finally be rid of pesky industrial advocacy in 2016, will be receiving a reality check. You can’t save a country that’s shedding jobs, pay and conditions, by getting rid of the very people who fight to preserve them.

Events will overwhelm this tacky union bashing exercise. Time will erode its potency. “Fixing the unions” will recede into the background noise like most of the other agenda items the Liberals try to run. Running an election on this basis – the extrapolation by an old patrician hack of the conduct of a few into the systemic nature of a whole movement – will fail again, as it always has. The case is too flimsy to maintain. There is evidence, but of what? That some union leaders take advantage of their positions? Who knew?

Shorten has weathered the storm. Like our ancient gerbil-like mammalian ancestors he does the wise thing. He hides under a rock until the fire and the ash from the asteroid have blown away (and with it the dinosaurs and all they stood for) and thinks. He plans. And then he comes out from hiding to prosper. When the odds are against you there’s no point sacrificing yourself. Shorten fights the battles he can win. He doesn’t throw his political life away by dying a glorious, but pointless death. Shorten has always played a long game.

Turnbull is making sure the old Liberal Party script is being re-run. Bash the unions. Challenge Labor to betray their origins. Extrapolate the sins of a few to the many. Protect your mates. Do deals. Survive until the next annual general meeting. Collect your bonus in the meantime.

His statement yesterday was out of kilter with the caring, sharing Turnbull the public thought they had purchased. It had shades of Godwin Grech about it. It was a typical Turnbull shortcut. If in doubt, go for the scandal: the Snakes and Ladders theory of politics. It was a sign of his weakness and his poor judgement.

Unsure of what he wants to do about the GST, penalty rates, superannuation, taxation of large corporations, education, innovation, science, Global Warming, surpluses, the Republic, gay marriage, Turnbull is nevertheless absolutely sure of what he wants to do about unions. At last he’s found something he can stand for, and something that might please Tony Abbott and his apostles. Sounds like “Win-Win”… but only to Malcolm Turnbull and a few in the media, dazzled by his brilliance. But we are seeing Malcolm Turnbulls true colors at last: indecisive, phoney and shallow, a Tory chancer who can’t resist going the biff to make himself look tough. Not a leader, more a barrister with a brief, in love with the sound of his own voice.

It won’t wash, Malcolm. It never has.

780 thoughts on “It won’t wash, Malcolm. It never has.

    • Don’t remind me. About 35 years back I got dragged into a picnic game, and rather foolishly volunteered to wicket-keep. I thought it would save me a bit of running around. But I’d forgotten about the squatting and leaping and the diving. I went fairly well at the time, but the next day I could hardly move from the stiffness.

  1. The last couple of pork bellies that I’ve bought from IGA (two different states) have had the bones attached; I didn’t know that was a thing. They looked great for crackling: nice, dry skin.

    I cooked them the usual way (salt crust for the crackling, salt + fennel seed seasoning for the meat.)
    The bone helped stop the belly shrinking and curling up, and also kept the meat moist.

    DW approved, and reckoned the “ribs” (removed as a slab to carve the rest of the meat) were the best bit.

  2. Of course the Septics don’t have a gun problem . Just check out the back to school supplies

    Backpacks › Kids’ Backpacks

    SHIELD PACK NIJ IIIA Rated Bulletproof School Backpack

    RingbinderJust snap the 1/4 inch thick, lightweight, NIJ Threat Level IIIA panel into your 3 Ring binder, notebook or clipboard OR just clamp the panel in behind the pad of paper on a standard clipboard and you instantly add approx. 80 square inches of vital personal protection in the event of a shooting incident.

    Bodyguard™ blanket in order to provide superior protection for children and teachers while at school.

    Bulletproof Bible – NIJ Level 3 – will stop up to AK47 round 7.62 or .308 including AR15

    Out Of Stock

    Perfect for sitting on to protect your family jewels from roadside IED’s. Excellent reading during the slow times. King James Version. It’s heavy but it’ll keep your body and your soul safe!–NIJ-Level-3–will-stop-up-to-AK47-round-762-or-308-including-AR15

  3. This reminds me of an unexpected RAAF flight past at Fingal Head, NSW a few years ago:

    The Awesome “CAD WEST” Low Flying Jet Site In Wales “Mach Loop”:

  4. Some excellent work by science types that Tones had not got around to rubbing out.

    Ancient meteorite ‘older than Earth’ from beyond orbit of Mars found at Lake Eyre

    ‘It is a big deal’: Cameras identify orbit of meteorite

    The meteorite is the first result of a new observation network of 32 remote cameras across WA and South Australia.

    Called the Desert Fireball Network, the cameras helped to narrow the search area to a 500 metre line.

    This meteorite is of special significance as the camera observations used to calculate the fall positions have also enabled the solar system orbit of the meteorite to be calculated, giving important contextual information for future study,” Professor Bland said.

  5. I was flicking through the channels and I caught the last bit of 7.30 and it was Abbott describing the paintings that he had hanging on his walls at Parliament House. He certainly drank deeply of the kool ade when he was at Oxford getting lectures on the life and aspirations of Cecil Rhodes and that is God,Queen and country. He had a painting done by Winston Churchill and this was his comment “Churchill was the Leonardo da Vinci of the political world.”


  6. Cliff

    Tones is a well known art critic with views on abstract art aligning with some German chappies in the 30s + 40s 🙂

    Parliament House’s art collection, once described by Tony Abbott as “avant-garde crap”, is about to take a step back in time…….Fed up with the “avant-garde crap” on offer, he demanded and received for his office a series of portraits in oil of former MPs.

  7. Seems as though Madonna King couldn’t handle that short period, where people who didn’t know better, could have been forgiven for mistaking her for an unbiased journalist!

    With this piece she has well and truly left Samantha Maiden for dead as a liberal/Coalition apologist and has returned back to her usual form with a vengeance!

  8. Good morning Dawn Patrollers.

    Nicole Hasham writes on Penny Wong’s assessment of Barnaby Joyce.
    Centrlink’s IT woes continue.
    NSW school principals are under a lot of pressure from parents.
    The poor little darlings!
    Kristina Keneally throws down a challenge to Turnbull.
    The cricketer we should all have been talking about – Meg Lamming.
    A wider view of the ramifications of the TURC report.
    The underbelly of extensive toll roads.
    Life as a high performing non-ongoing employee at the Dept of Human Services.
    Airlines you don’t want to travel on.

  9. Section 2 . . . with Cartoon Corner

    A great Letter to the Editor at the Fin Review about the Dick Smith collapse.
    “Yes, Chanticleer (“Dick Smith receivership gets the drums beating on risk”, January 8), Dick Smith is indeed a lesson to all. And yes, there are actually plenty of convenient targets too. Not just investors who swallowed the bait hook, line and sinker. What about private equity managers who dress up companies with slick financial engineering and often load them up with debt and fees? What about the fund managers, retired senior and formerly competent managers who happily join the gravy train? What about the startling fees taken out by the banks, auditors, lawyers, insolvency experts, liquidators and administrators? What about the likelihood that Dick Smith was doomed to fail once sold by its founder, and not just in the past three months, as claimed by Chanticleer?
    How can such a string of senior managers get things so wrong? And why is a deposit or gift card an unsecured loan? Is it stated in writing? And why can’t the banks afford a little generosity to the mums and dads who “loaned” their hard-earned to Dick Smith? It’s time this newspaper dabbled in corporate social responsibility and decried these knife-edge practices. They [are] maybe quite legal, but they do not inspire a younger generation of aspiring business people. Nor does the “shareholder robbery” of failed, fired and departing CEOs taking millions with them as performance bonuses inspire anyone except the greedy and uncaring. Take a stand for business reform and business ethics. These are not mutually exclusive from business success and shareholder returns.”
    The IAAF gets tough over doping issues.
    Alan Moir on Obama’s gun control pleas.

    David Pope with an innovative plan for Australia for 2016.

    John Spooner with new Victorian road signage.

    Roy takes us to North Korea.
    Jon Kudelka t the Chinese stock exchange.
    At home with the Coalition – nice work from David Rowe.

  10. ” A great Letter to the Editor at the Fin Review about the Dick Smith collapse.”
    When the CEO’s and senior managers of the business community are in the main graduates from the “private education” colleges or hungry “aspirant slum-dogs”, the bar of expected success is supported by a stack of hundred dollar bills and barbarian prowess is the driving force to jump that bar, morals and ethics does not come into it!…nor, may we add is it expected to.

    In this current climate, the business community would sell ISIS. the knife to cut their own mother’s throat!

  11. In this current climate, the business community would sell ISIS. the knife to cut their own mother’s throat!

    I can only suspect that you agree with the letter’s contents because you endorse it in your opening sentence.

    I have always been left of centre politically and I’ve owned and run my own business for for 40years. From my POV, generalisations like the one above, is a product of a warped view of the greater business community. The vast are small business owners like myself, who are not only trying to make a living (albeit a comfortable one) ignoring the argument small business employ the largest number of the working population in the country.

    To generalise because of a few bad apples is as much a sin as the moral and legal crimes of the few “the bad apples”.

  12. ptmd

    I doubt that Paris police station attack, was a terrorist attack. It sounds like suicide-by-cop to me.


  13. The Briggs/Brough business just won’t go away, and Turnbull’s cunning plan to have Brough stand aside at a time when he hoped no-one would notice, so Labor wouldn’t be able to use QT to attack him won’t work. Turnbull has just made things even worse by handng Labor a stack of new ammunition. That poor judgement thing, again.

    Will Turnbull try to worm out of QT by bringing back the Keating roster system for ministers and declaring he himself will only attend QT two days a week? Will he decide to do away with QT completely?

    Labor escalates Jamie Briggs affair through Public Service Commissioner complaint

    Labor is also demanding Mr Lloyd investigate whether the Turnbull government delayed Mr Briggs’ resignation to provide a cover for Mal Brough’s standing aside as Special Minister of State while the police investigation into his role in the Peter Slipper affair continues.
    The opposition also wants to know how much two internal inquiries into Mr Briggs cost, when they began and a clear timeline of the events

  14. I know he’s “only” a State pollie but it doesn’t reflect well on the Nationals, or on their Liberal colleagues if it comes to that.

    An attempt to use a navy warship for a party fundraiser “beggars belief” but continues a long trend of MPs trying to associate themselves with the military for political purposes, former defence figures have said.

    The Western Australian Nationals MP Paul Brown, who tried to sell $1,000 tickets to a political fundraiser aboard HMAS Perth, dismissed the scandal as “much ado about nothing”.

  15. Coalition politicians are doing stupid with clockwork-like regularity. They must have a roster system.

  16. This little black duck

    “Coalition politicians are doing stupid with clockwork-like regularity”
    And there I was thinking it was all the Mad Monk’s fault. Jeebus he was merely the skin on the rice pudding.
    I got 1 wRONg and it was THE one I should have known about, WA solar power !!!!!!!.

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