Where are the crooks?

Ask Tony Abbott where the crooks are and he would repeat what he said when he set up the Royal Commission into Union Governance and Corruption: the crooks are clustered in the unions, particularly the construction unions, and most of all in the CFMEU. The last two words of the Commission’s title capture Abbott’s diagnosis. Unions are corrupt; the Commission’s task was to ascertain how corrupt.

Abbott contended that union officials were stand-over thugs who bullied and bribed construction firms to get what they wanted. He cited their behaviour as criminal, immoral, and reprehensible. No one is denying malfeasance in the union movement, yet there have been only 20 referrals from the Royal Commission, and so far no charge has been laid against any union official. Time will reveal how many crooks there really are.

Although Abbott has been ignominiously pushed into the background where no sensible person takes him seriously anymore, the diagnosis of corrupt behaviour in unions has been endorsed by his successor. Malcolm Turnbull has enlarged the extent of their ‘unlawful behaviour’ by asserting that it is a drag on productivity. He wants the Australian Building and Construction Commission reinstated in order to increase the productivity, competitiveness and profitability of the construction industry. He has added an economic twist to his pro-ABCC argument. If the ABCC bill is rejected again by the Senate, he will use that as a double dissolution election trigger.

The 2014 Productivity Commission report said that the evidence for aggregate productivity increases and cost savings was weak during the time of the ABCC. ACTU Secretary, Dave Oliver said: "Since the ABCC was abolished productivity has in fact increased and industrial disputes have decreased; the only thing that's increased…is the incidence of workplace accidents, injuries and unfortunately fatalities as well." But that has not inhibited Turnbull in pressing his economic case. After all, facts are irrelevant when making political points, especially at election time.

The point of this piece though is not to argue a contrary position on the ABCC, but to look around to check whether the crooks are confined to unions.

Where are the crooks?

Liberals need look no further than their own party. In recent days the Electoral Commission has refused to pay the Liberal party’s NSW branch more than $4.4m until the party reveals the secret donors who poured about $700,000 into its coffers before the 2011 state election. Now it happens that at the time Arthur Sinodinos (previously Chief of Staff to John Howard and now a Senator) was the party’s treasurer and finance director. He has indignantly denied any knowledge of the secret donors and the refusal to reveal them, has threatened to sool his lawyers onto the Commission, and has demanded a retraction of the statements that implicate him. The truth of the matter may emerge, but in the meantime Sinodinos is suspect, and is being pursued by Labor. As Tanya Plibersek said:“It beggars belief that the treasurer and finance director of the Liberal party of NSW didn’t know about an elaborate arrangement to channel hundreds of thousands of dollars of illegal donations to the Liberal party.” Many will agree with her.

Of course Sinodinos has form in amnesia. You will remember his lapses of memory when he faced the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption inquiry to defend what he did to earn an alleged $200,000 salary from Australian Water Holdings after he left the public service. He seemed to be doing almost nothing to warrant that huge salary. The commission also heard that Sinodinos, a former AWH director and NSW Liberal Party treasurer, stood to make up to $20 million if AWH won a lucrative contract with the state-owned Sydney Water company. He denied any knowledge of donations from AWH to the Liberal Party although he was a key player in both. Even the ever-loyal Abbott was concerned enough to have him stand down from parliamentary duties temporarily. No charges have been laid regarding this matter, but suspicion remains in the minds of many who wonder how anyone so involved in both sides of a huge money transfer could not know about it.

Sinodinos comes across as a plausible fellow, so no one is calling him a crook. But how many more inexplicable lapses of memory will people tolerate before doubt about his integrity gives way to certainty about his lack of it?

Anyway, we know there are crooks in the Liberal Party. Former Victorian state director Damien Mantach embezzled $1.5 million of party funds and is now behind bars.

How many crooks does it take for the NSW state branch to accept large donations from banned donors, hide these donations from the Electoral Commission, and be prepared to forgo $4.4 million due to it from the Commission rather than reveal the donors? There is much more to come out about this ugly matter; perhaps in time we will be able to identify the crooks.

Let’s cast our net wider. Where are the crooks?

Look at the banks. We need go no further than the CBA.

How many crooks did it have in its financial planning arm? How many financial advisers were there who invested clients’ money in ventures where they earned fat commissions but which failed because they did not carry out due diligence, where they put their personal gain so far ahead of clients’ interests that they lost their clients' life’s savings? CBA chief Ian Narev has apologized profusely, but many are still awaiting the promised compensation.

How many crooks have they still got in the claims division of Comminsure, where scores of clients have been denied their legitimate insurance claims because the fewer the claims the bigger the bonuses that flow to the claims managers?

How bad is the culture of our premier bank when it enabled such behaviour to flourish? Are there more crooks there hoping not to be exposed?

Other banks are not entirely blameless.

Where are the crooks?

Looking further afield at industry, how many crooks were there at Volkswagen when it ‘engineered’ false emissions data to mislead the public and the regulatory authorities? What did VW CEO Martin Wintercom know? Was the culprit Falko Rudolph, head of diesel engineering, or Burkhard Veldten, head of software design, or Heinz-Jakob Neusser, head of development at VW, or Wolfgang Hatz, head of research at Porsche, all now suspended or left? Plenty of suspected crooks to choose from there!

Where are the crooks?

Closer to home, there was 7-Eleven where for years franchisees cruelly underpaid their workers, particularly students on temporary visas. It was later revealed that this was with the knowledge of the chairman of 7-Eleven, Russ Withers, who was forced to admit liability and offer recompense. He and chief executive Warren Wilmon have both announced their resignation from the company.

Where are the crooks?

Let’s look at the wider scene where the ATO reported recently that almost 600 of the largest companies operating in Australia did not pay income tax in the 2013-14 financial year. We are entitled to ask how many crooks there are out there avoiding paying their proper share of tax. They all insist that what they do is legal, and perhaps in the formal sense it is, but how moral is it to make huge profits in this country but contribute nothing via taxes to support the services the community needs, and ought to have? Many are household names: Qantas, Virgin Australia, General Motors, Vodafone, ExxonMobil, Warner Bros Entertainment, Lend Lease and Ten Network Holdings. Others made huge profits but paid miniscule tax: Apple, Microsoft, Google, VW and Spotless.

How many crooks does it take to achieve these immoral outcomes?

This piece is long enough already. To expose all the crooks out there would take ten times as many words. I hope though that this piece does demonstrate that to imply that the crooks are clustered in the unions, and insinuate that by comparison big business is populated with blameless individuals who are as pure as the driven snow, is entirely fictional.

Where are the crooks? They are everywhere. So why is the Turnbull government so ruthlessly targeting unions, and specifically the construction industry and the dreaded CFMEU?

It's political of course! To appease the Abbottites, Turnbull feels compelled to adopt Abbott policies, use Abbott catchphrases, even recite his appalling slogans that demean and condemn the whole union movement and unionists with it, knowing full well that only a tiny fraction likely deserve the condemnation he heaps upon them.

How obscene, how outrageous is it to revile just one small part of industry, the construction industry, when we know that crooks abound all through industry and commerce, even in our most prestigious institutions, the banks; when we see corruption in the Liberal party itself? And all this Turnbull does to gain political advantage.

When might we see him launching a Royal Commission into Banking, or a Royal Commission into Tax Avoidance, or perhaps a Royal Commission into the Liberal Party? Don’t hold your breath!

Where are the crooks? We know!

What do you think?
What are your views about PM Turnbull’s attack on unions?

Please comment on other instances of corruption.

Expose other crooks.

We look forward to reading your views and your comments.

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31/03/2016The government says "these union officials were stand-over thugs who bullied and bribed construction firms to get what they wanted". And what did these union thugs want? Better health and safety, trying to stop the safety breaches, the accidents and the deaths on dangerous construction sites. Payment of proper wages, benefits and conditions. Payment of all superannuation entitlements. When things go pear shaped the workers actually got all the severance they were entitled to. You know actually doing their jobs looking after the interests of their members. 7-eleven workers could have done with some strong union representation. A bit of thuggish standing over was certainly warranted in that case. White collar crime dwarfs anything the CMFEU can come up with but the bosses union will not condone any light being shed on shady businessmen. The LNP are the bosses union. Darkness will remain, for now.


31/03/2016Ross Well said and spot on. Some of the Senate cross-benchers want to go further than the ABCC and use this opportunity to create a federal ICAC but the government is not interested -- which only goes to prove your point!!

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31/03/2016Ross You are right. The unions fight for not only decent conditions and wages, but safety in the workforce. When the ABCC was in place, more workers died on the job.

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31/03/2016Folks On another subject, namely the introduction by Sussan Ley of the 'Health Care Home', that embodies the principle of comprehensive, continuous, coordinated care by one GP or GP team, a principle that we have been teaching general practitioner trainees for over 40 years, Ms Ley presented it as if it was a unique heaven-sent inspiration. As is usual, details were lacking, leading to speculation and inevitable questioning from Labor. When will they ever learn to get the policy right before announcing it, and when they do, spell out exactly what they intend? The announcement led to the 'Quote of the Week' from Professor Brian Owler: [i][b]"i am President of the AMA and a brain surgeon with a PhD, but I can't keep up with the policy process of this government!"[/i][/b] That just about says it all. Neither Brian can anyone else fathom this government.

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6/04/2016Folks In less than a week from when we published this piece, we have collected hundreds more crooks. The Panama Papers have revealed thousands of clients, several hundred from Australia, that Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca has helped to launder money, dodge sanctions and avoid tax. The first casualty is Iceland’s Prime Minister Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson, who has stepped down after it was revealed that he owned an offshore company with his wife that he had not declared when he entered parliament. He is accused of concealing millions of dollars' worth of family assets overseas, notably at a time when he was urging his people to keep their assets in Iceland to boost its economy! Read more: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-35918844 Then today we learn that ASIC has filed court documents that reveal how traders from various parts of the ANZ Banking Group shared information to manipulate the BBSW, a term used for interest rate swaps of six months or less. Time will tell how many crooks there are at the ANZ. Read more: http://www.afr.com/business/banking-and-finance/financial-services/how-anz-were-alleged-to-manipulate-the-bbsw-20160304-gnaw26#ixzz450RR5Su2 Crooks are everywhere. There are not confined to the construction industry, to unions or the CFMEU, which the Turnbull government is pursuing relentlessly as it tries to reinstate the ABCC.

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6/04/2016Folks I hear today on [i]The World Today[/i] that Westpac is also involved in the BBSW scam. The program played a mocked-up version of a real phone conversation from one trader to another that exposed the fraud, knowingly being committed. Then we heard of a rant from David Murray who chose to attack ASIC because it had criticised the culture in Australian banks. Of course the culture that allows the bad behaviour we have seen at ANZ, Westpac, and of course Commbank, is appalling. Murray, an ex-banker who has held senior positions in the banking world ought to know better. He has been chastised by Resources Minister Josh Frydenberg. More and more crooks!


11/04/2016The next bout of complete crookery to be perpetuated by the LNP is their intention to amend legislation regarding superannuation to gain control of industry funds which have consistently outperformed retail super funds over a long period. Any worker on less than the average wage and more likely above it, is doing their standard of living harm if they intend voting for the coalition at the next election. The LNP government has not proposed any intention of introducing policy changes which benefit lower income Australians. Changes to superannuation, car leasing and health concessions that the well off now enjoy are sufficient to rectify Federal government budget difficulties. Crooks is a word well worth using to describe many with close links to the LNP and the LNP is not user friendly for most Australians.
T-w-o take away o-n-e equals?