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Tuesday, 1 December 2015
Page: 9532

Senator CONROY (VictoriaDeputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (22:37): I rise this evening to take advantage of the last significant adjournment opportunity of the year to again draw the Senate's attention to the ongoing hypocrisy of Prime Minister Turnbull's Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption. When those opposite finally turned on former Prime Minister Abbott after some seven months of plotting his downfall, newly minted Prime Minister Turnbull was quick to decree a new era of political leadership. However, the Australian people are starting to understand that Prime Minister Turnbull has no intentions of moderating former Prime Minister Abbott's right-wing political agenda. We have seen no action on climate change. The government's position on marriage equality remains as Mr Abbott determined it. And, rather than showing the political leadership required to usher in his much-claimed new paradigm of political debate, we have seen Prime Minister Turnbull take ownership of the biased, politically motivated, trade union royal commission.

This sham royal commission, an extension of the executive arm of this government, charged with smearing and slandering the political opponents of the conservative parties, is now the wholly owned property of Prime Minister Turnbull. Prime Minister Turnbull has had the opportunity to bring this $80 million Star Chamber to a close. He could have drawn a line under the disgraceful behaviour of the commissioner and his staff and the biased charade over which they have presided. But, despite Prime Minister Turnbull's efforts to portray himself as the Liberal Party's saviour, his endorsement of the royal commission's shameful actions has exposed him as the political antagonist that he truly is.

With the unwavering support of Prime Minister Turnbull, Royal Commissioner Dyson Heydon and his flunky Senior Counsel Assisting Jeremy Stoljar continue their campaign of defamation and denigration against the labour movement. We have recently seen the commission release multiple submissions containing their analysis of evidence as well as Mr Stoljar's questionable legal conclusions in relation to different matters before the commission. In an effort to throw as much mud before Christmas as possible, the commission has released Mr Stoljar's musings regarding the AWU, the National Union of Workers and the CFMEU. Mr Stoljar's approach is formulaic. He repeats selected pieces of evidence while omitting others. He draws the longest of bows in order to paint entire organisations with the transgressions of a few individuals. And then he wildly extrapolates his ridiculous, biased views across the entire labour movement.

But one of Mr Stoljar's submissions does not follow this recipe of dishonesty. One of Mr Stoljar's submissions seeks to cover up the crimes of a particular former union official, provides pathetically weak explanations for that official's corrupt behaviour and, despite the existence of evidence that the commission has not yet considered in relation to this particular official, fails to even suggest their recalling to the stand. I am sure some senators may by now have guessed who I am referring to. But of course, for this particular union official, this royal commission continues to run a protection racket. It is, of course, Ms Kathy Jackson.

This is the same Kathy Jackson that the Federal Court recently found had misappropriated some $1.4 million from the Health Services Union, stolen from the union members that she was supposed to represent. And none of us has forgotten or should forget the current government's opinion of Ms Jackson. Despite Ms Jackson having embezzled $1.4 million, just last year Mr Christopher Pyne, a Liberal cabinet minister, said in the House:

Kathy Jackson is a revolutionary, and Kathy Jackson will be remembered as a lion of the union movement.

That was Mr Christopher Pyne. Mr Heydon and Mr Stoljar continue to man the barricades in defence of this Liberal government's revolutionary.

The royal commission's treatment of Ms Jackson has been in stark contrast to its treatment of other witnesses. It may come as a surprise to you, but there were some 75 emails between Ms Jackson and the commission staff leading up to her initial testimony—75 emails. Ms Jackson was provided in advance with documents that Mr Stoljar was to use as the basis for his questions. That is right: Mr Stoljar provided the documents he was going to question Ms Jackson with in advance. She was briefed on the topics that would be covered, and the royal commission solicitors even helped her prepare her official statements. No other witnesses have been provided with this support.

Chris Brown, Ms Jackson's successor and a chief agitator against her corrupted behaviour, was certainly not. I will quote from the HSU's submission, which is published on the royal commission's website:

… the Commission did not send emails to Brown or his solicitors about the content of his proposed evidence. Solicitors for the Royal Commission did not assist in settling his statement. He was not given access to documents prior to giving evidence. He was not given a list of the topics that would be examined in his evidence.

So despite preparing a 232-page statement, without assistance from the commission, addressing the key lines of inquiry as laid out by Mr Stoljar at the opening of the case, Mr Brown was publicly attacked by the royal commission. That is right: a union official that went before the royal commission to expose the corruption of Kathy Jackson was attacked by Dyson Heydon and Jeremy Stoljar. They actually attacked a witness that exposed the corruption of Kathy Jackson. Then, in a slanderous attempt to discredit Mr Brown's testimony, the royal commission alleged a fictionally tenuous link between Mr Brown and his loyalty to Ms Jackson's internal foes. It was not that he exposed the corruption of probably the most corrupt witness who appeared before the royal commission, but he actually attacked Mr Brown. This is despite Mr Brown having led the charge to invoke unprecedented legal action against corrupt union officials and toward restoring the fiduciary integrity of the HSU.

But Mr Brown was not the only witness exposed to this disgraceful double standard of behaviour from the royal commission. This politically charged royal commission had one scalp it was most keen to claim. Entirely unsurprisingly, the $80 million royal commission was fanatical in its pursuit of the Leader of the Opposition, this conservative government's greatest political adversary. Despite all the evidence confirming Mr Shorten's integrity and probity in relation to his tireless advocacy for working people, the royal commission went to extraordinary lengths to smear Mr Shorten.

It is clear to anyone who availed themselves of the facts that Mr Stoljar's attempts to link Mr Shorten to questionable behaviour within the AWU were deeply flawed. Many of the events that the royal commission concerned itself with had even taken place after Mr Shorten had left the AWU. So Mr Stoljar actually attempted to smear Mr Shorten with events after he was no longer in a position of responsibility for them. And the royal commission's media unit was operating in overdrive. Regardless of the truth, they leaked, they rumour-mongered, and the commission itself went to great lengths to frustrate Mr Shorten's appearance preparation. And, despite all of that constant leaking and constant documents being supplied to selected journalists to misrepresent and paint in the worst possible light, in a final, desperate act to discredit Mr Shorten, Dyson Heydon lashed out at him on the stand by questioning his integrity as a witness without any justification.

Of course, the recent release of Mr Stoljar's submission in reply, released under the cover of darkness in an attempt to bury the truth, exonerated Mr Shorten of all wrongdoing. In fact, Mr Stoljar's submission was littered with admissions that the accusations he had levelled at Mr Shorten were unsubstantiated. Here are his words:

The evidence does not support a finding that Mr Shorten had any substantial involvement in the arrangement …

…   …   …

The question is whether there may have been anything improper or unlawful about that. It is submitted that the evidence does not establish that there was.

…   …   …

Such an official could act improperly if he or she used his or her position in order to obtain or procure a benefit for himself or a third party. But the evidence does not establish that Mr Shorten so acted here

…   …   …

… there is no suggestion that Mr Shorten was involved …

And it goes on and on and on.

Australians know that this royal commission has been a political Star Chamber, a biased tool of a rancid conservative government to attack the opposition and undermine the labour movement. And, despite being given $80 million of taxpayers' money, divesting themselves of the responsibility to follow fair process and using the media to smear and slander witnesses, this royal commission has finally admitted that its primary target was innocent.

And yet this biased royal commissioner and his incompetent and indolent staff have been so preoccupied with Mr Shorten that they have wilfully missed the opportunity to hold Ms Jackson accountable for her corrupt behaviour. Egged on by Mr Stoljar, Mr Heydon has struck out onto the thinnest of legal ice and continuously deferred the royal commission's consideration of evidence against Ms Jackson. Such evidence was refused consideration on the basis that it was already subject to legal consideration in the Federal Court, the same Federal Court which deliberated and resulted in the finding that Ms Jackson had stolen $1.4 million from the HSU, ordering her to repay it.

But the precedent of excluding evidence already the subject of legal deliberation was for Ms Jackson only. When the CFMEU applied to Mr Heydon requesting that evidence which was also the subject of sensitive legal deliberations before the courts be deferred, Mr Heydon held them in contempt. He actually held a union in contempt because they said there is an ongoing legal matter. Then he gave Kathy Jackson a get-out-of-jail-free card, and off she went. With scant regard for the ongoing legal proceedings, the star-chamber did away with the Jackson precedent. They watched him protect Kathy Jackson. They watched Dyson Heydon say, 'No, there's a legal case under foot; we can't possibly take this evidence.' The CFMEU sought the same protection and were actually held in contempt.

The CFMEU evidence was submitted and circulated, and the royal commission used it to underpin recommendations of legal action against the union and officials. The Trade Union Royal Commission has still not accepted the evidence against Ms Jackson. Apparently some people are definitely more equal than others in the eyes of Justice Heydon.

But the evidence which this $80 million royal commission has not seen fit to consider and the consequential accusations against Ms Jackson have finally been aired, not—tragically—before the show-trial royal commission but on the ABC's Four Corners program. I urge anyone listening or anyone who reads this Hansard to go get it off the ABC website, because it was must-watch TV at its best.

Like many Australians I watched with incredulity as Ms Jackson and her controversial partner, Fair Work Commission Vice-President Michael Lawler, paraded themselves on national television. I have no doubt that they saw it as an opportunity to share their concocted story and delusional perspective with, as Mr Lawler so patronisingly puts it, 'ordinary Australians'. But things did not quite go to plan.

Ms Jackson outed Mr Lawler for his conflict of interest at the Fair Work Commission. She actually outed him. In a desperate act of self-preservation, Mr Lawler interrupted the filming of the Four Corners program to prosecute his own retelling of history, but it was too late. Mr Lawler also went on to reveal that he had benefited from the proceeds of crime. He actually went on to admit it. He benefited from moneys stolen from the HSU. This is what he said:

It turns out that I have been the beneficiary of airfares and a small amount of accommodation that was paid for by the union.

He actually admits that he is a beneficiary of stolen money. Ms Jackson's own partner admits she, Kathy Jackson, was stealing from the union.

And, while I acknowledge that Mr Lawler is not exactly a credible witness himself, what with his nine months of sick leave, illegal phone recordings, exploitation of an elderly, impaired person and benefiting from the proceeds of crime, the Four Corners program has laid bare the reality that this royal commission covered up. It is up there on television now; you can watch it any time you want. The royal commission looked the other way and gave her a leave pass. In fact, I only accused Mr Lawler of living off $15,000 of stolen money. He actually said that, no, it is about $50,000. I want to thank him for at least coming clean on that. I think it is a lot more, but time will tell.

Ms Jackson is a parasite who abused her position of power at the HSU to steal money from the poorest workers in Australia. The stolen money has funded the lavish lifestyles of Ms Jackson and Mr Lawler, including international holidays, indulgent shopping splurges and even their luxury coastal home. If everyone in Australia can see that Ms Jackson is corrupt, why is the Trade Union Royal Commission still so intent on protecting her?