CFMEU deny corruption allegations
The CFMEU says any members caught doing the wrong thing will be forced out following allegations of corruption and bribery.PT7M7S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-31ksc 620 349 January 28, 2014
Evidence of bribery and links between the powerful construction union, bikies, organised crime and companies seeking work on large private and government building projects could not have come at a better time for the Abbott government.
In opposition, the ghost of WorkChoices haunted the Coalition.
Tony Abbott and his employment minister, Eric Abetz, took a softly, softly approach last May when they announced a small-target policy, promising to return industrial relations to the ''sensible centre''.
Senator Eric Abetz. Photo: Andrew Meares
The pair launched a two-term strategy that emphasised productivity, flexibility, creation of a Registered Organisations Commission to police union malfeasance and restoration of the Howard-era Australian Building and Construction Commission to monitor building sites.
Further changes were put off until after a Productivity Commission inquiry and the next election, due in 2016.
Since the election, Abetz has carefully rolled out pre-election promises and attempted to build public support for further IR changes and a tougher approach to unions.
Tuesday's revelations in Fairfax newspapers have given the would-be union buster Abetz just the sort of evidence he needs.
A small-scale judicial inquiry into the Australian Workers Union Workplace Reform Association - the affair that so bedevilled Julia Gillard in office - now appears set to morph into a full-scale royal commission, with the power to compel witnesses and demand documents.
Make no mistake. The Coalition now has examples of corruption and misbehaviour in the CFMEU, and other unions, squarely in its sights. It will seek to extract maximum political advantage from evidence of misbehaviour with every legislative change blocked by Labor (and the Greens), such as the restoration of the ABCC, to be thrown back in Labor's face
It has not escaped the government's notice that unions donate millions to Labor - $4.7 million from 11 of the biggest unions in 2011-12, according to Electoral Commission disclosures, and $55.6 million since 2000-2001
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and his workplace spokesman, Brendan O'Connor, have deep links and a strong loyalty to the union movement.
Shorten led the Australian Workers Union and was heavily backed by unions, including by the CFMEU, in the recent Labor leadership contest. And before entering Parliament, O'Connor was assistant national secretary of the Australian Services Union and is the brother of CFMEU national secretary Michael O'Connor.
As the government moves to push through changes to the industrial relations system and as the inquiry gets under way, Shorten, O'Connor and other frontbenchers' links to the union movement will be used to wedge the opposition.
By targeting corruption in unions and arguing a credible reform case on law-and-order grounds, the Coalition will achieve two dividends. It will weaken Labor's left flank and will please business, a core constituency.