Friday, 25 May 2012

Post#194 Craig Thomson Is Guilty!...But He May Be Innocent (Union Corruption - Why The Coalition Loves It)

I previously stated that Craig Thomson is "guilty as sin". I speculated that his statement to the Parliament was a stalling tactic to allow a rat to be groomed to bolster the ALP's numbers in the House. If there is a rat I don't suppose they'll show themselves until they have to. As to the statement, it was the first time he's actually lied to the House In the course of doing so he has used parliamentary privilege to defame various people and made himself fair game for the privileges committee.

This may be the only thing of which he is ever convicted. When I wrote "guilty as sin" I meant that he had done the deeds of which he is accused. This is a matter of fact; I can't believe his increasingly shambolic denials any more than most other Australians can. The catch here is that his actions may not have been statutorily or tortiously unlawful.

The laws governing the administration of industrial organisations in Federal and State jurisdictions may not have been breached by the unethical use of funds for Thomson's own purposes. Even the famous "escort services" might turn into allowable travel expenses for entertainment. If Thomson's contract of employment essentially says, "Thou mayest squander the union's money as thou pleasest", and this did not contravene the union's rules or the law of the land, he's scot-free.

The laws in this matter have been patchy for a long time. The most important issue here (which the media won't notice as long as there's a sex-scandal in the field of view) is why the law controlling governance of unions now needs to be tightened. It's easy to see why the Labor Party, a beneficiary of union funding, isn't eager to tighten the purse-strings in unions, but what is the Coalition's motive? Malcolm Fraser, who was hardly a syndicalist, was in control of both chambers of the parliament from the final declaration of the 1975 double dissolution poll in early 1976 to June, 1981. John Howard, a renowned union-basher, took control of the Senate from 1 July, 2005 and could ram through all sorts of anti-labour laws until his defeat in November, 2007.

The Federal/State jurisdictional obstacles could have been legislated away as part of the revised laws; so what stopped them? I can only conclude that, if the idea ever occurred to them, some clever strategist would point out that reforming the labour movement would have the effect of making unions shiny clean and impeccably prudential...and thus more attractive to members. The Coalition certainly isn't interested in making unions more attractive to prospective members. Thus, despite the crocodile tears of Tony Abbott for the poor HSU folk, I expect he will show some reluctance and find quibbles to put against whatever the Labor party proposes to reform union governance. If ever elected to government, I expect he will show no enthusiasm for buffing the image of unions either. Having the officials squander the members' funds on self-indulgence is perfectly to his purpose. That is the withering away of the organised labour movement.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Post#193 Flight Centre Boobed (Workplace Bullying, Boob Apron)

Here is a story from the Herald-Sun of Melbourne, dated 14 May, 2012:

"A WHISTLEBLOWER who lost his career after standing up for a bullied co-worker at one of Australia's biggest travel agencies has filed Federal Court action.

Richard Barnes was a high-performing assistant manager at Flight Centre company Student Flights when he became concerned another employee was being severely bullied by store manager Kelly Gallasch.
The case centres on claims Ms Gallasch made an employee wear a boob apron (an apron with fake breasts) to a work awards night.

She allegedly told her "no wonder your husband left you" and told other workers the worker was "useless" and "stinks".

Mr Barnes made several complaints about Ms Gallasch's behaviour at the Frankston store but alleges Flight Centre failed to take action.

He is also claiming Ms Gallasch then targeted him as a result of his complaints about her.

Maurice Blackburn Lawyers on Monday filed the action in the Federal Court in Melbourne on Mr Barnes' behalf.

The firm's employment law principal Josh Bornstein said the company's response was unacceptable.

"Our client blew the whistle on extreme bullying behaviour at Flight Centre and as a result, was victimised, demoted and ultimately lost his career with the company," he said.

"The fact that a company which has won awards for being an excellent employer has tried to sweep this under the rug, ignoring obscene and belittling bullying in its own ranks and then turning on those that try to expose it, reflects an unacceptable work attitude."

Flight Centre Limited (FCL) says it will "vigorously defend" the case.

"The company considers it acted appropriately and denies various allegations that have been made against it," it said in a statement.

FCL said it investigated and acted against several people when the complaint was received last year, including complaints made against Mr Barnes.

It said it takes such allegations seriously, has measures in place to prevent and discipline such behaviour, and has a whistleblower's facility staff can use to report alleged wrongdoing.

The case was lodged in January at Fair Work Australia but the parties were unable to reach resolution.

The latest action was filed under the Fair Work Act's adverse action provisions, which protect whistleblowers from victimisation and retribution.

Mr Bornstein said national workplace bullying laws are needed because no law directly addresses workplace bullying and makes it illegal."

This is one version of the story; others say the employee was "asked to wear the apron" and refused.

Here is a cut-and-paste of the staff details for the Frankston office of  Student Flights which are still on the Internet:

"Store Team Members

Kelly Gallasch - Manager

My passion in life is travel! I have been in the travel industry for 6 years and have loved every minute of it. I have backpacked through Europe, cruised down the Mexican Riviera, visited Mickey Mouse in the USA and ridden a camel past the pyramids in Egypt. I have been to Bali numerous times and ridden motorbikes throughout Vietnam. My last trip; I braved the 45 degree heat in India, experiencing a fascinating country with all its culture, amazing people and food!

Spoken Languages:


Richard Barnes - Assistant manager

I've had weird, wonderful & bizarre experiences on my travels-backpacking in Europe ,driving thru USA & travelling thru Sth America.I've climbed through an ice-cave in Austria, played bongo drums with a Colombian bongo band, taken a 4a.m. swim (wearing devil horns) during Rio's Carnival, been scuba diving in Fiji, to Red Square in Moscow & slept in a capsule in Tokyo.

Spoken Languages:


All good mates together. Just goes to show what lies (lies!) behind those cheerful public relations puff-pieces.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Post#192 Day Trip to Bangor - Fiddler's Dram

Here's something sweet and harmless to wash away the taste of all this recent politicking:

Didn't we have a lovely time
the day we went to Bangor
A beautiful day, we had lunch on the way
and all for under a pound you know
But on the way back I cuddled with Jack
and we opened a bottle of cider
Singing a few of our favourite songs
as the wheels went around

Do you recall the thrill of it all
as we walked along the sea front
Then on the sand we heard a brass band
that played the Diddlely-Bump-Ta-ra-ra-ra
Elsie and me had one cup of tea
then we took a Paddler boat out
Splashing away as we sat on the bay
and the wheels went 'round

Didn't we have a lovely time
the day we went to Bangor
A beautiful day, we had lunch on the way
and all for under a pound you know
But on the way back I cuddled with Jack
and we opened a bottle of cider
Singing a few of our favourite songs
as the wheels went around

Wasn't it nice, eating chocolate ice
as we strolled around the fun-fair
Then we ate eels in big ferris wheels
as we sailed around the ground but then
We had to be quick 'cause Elsie felt sick
and we had to find somewhere to take her
I said to her lad, what made her feel bad
was it the wheel going 'round

Didn't we have a lovely time
the day we went to Bangor
A beautiful day, we had lunch on the way
and all for under a pound you know
But on the way back I cuddled with Jack
and we opened a bottle of cider
Singing a few of our favourite songs
as the wheels went around

Elsie and me, we finished our tea
and said goodbye to the seaside
And on the bus, Flo said to us,
Oh isn't it a shame to go
Wouldn't it be grand to have cash on demand
and to live like this for always
Oh it makes me feel ill, when I think of the mill
and the wheels goin' 'round

Didn't we have a lovely time
the day we went to Bangor
A beautiful day, we had lunch on the way
and all for under a pound you know
But on the way back I cuddled with Jack
and we opened a bottle of cider
Singing a few of our favourite songs
as the wheels went around

La la la la ...

The lady singing is Cathy LeSpurl. When I first heard this I thought it was a rework of a music-hall song of the first decade of the 20th Century. Not so; it was composed by Debbie Cook in 1979.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Post#191 Craig Thomson - A Conspiratorial Speculation

When I heard that Craig Thomson was going to make a statement to the Commonwealth Parliament in response to the allegations against him I thought, "What can he possibly say? After all, he's guilty as sin, so he can't refute the allegations." Then I realised I wasn't being remotely cynical enough, so I tried a thought experiment:

Step One: Assume that the statement itself is insignificant.

Step Two: Note the timing. It is scheduled for Monday, 21st May 2012. A week is a long time in politics and ten days is a very long time. There was one sitting day left in which the independent members might have been persuaded to vote to suspend Thomson and deprive Labor of his vote. The week between now and the 21st is a non-sitting week.

Step Three: Find a(nother) rat in the Coalition ranks to stave off Labor's doom.

So there's my conspiracy for the week: Thomson's move is to stall the independents until the ALP has completed the grooming of the new rat.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Post#190 The (Script) Page Turns for Craig Thomson

Craig Thomson (from The Canberra Times)

Today, the Fairly Worthless of Australia have published their report on the three-year investigation of the Health Services Union. To the great amazement of none, the report contends that Craig Thomson used his position of trust in the HSU to bilk them of thousands of dollars to pay for his sexual indulgences and self-serving electoral campaigning.

Hitherto, Thomson has insisted that he is so innocent that no-one could ever make a finding against him and that every irrelevant comment by any public figure constitutes vindication for him. The epitome of this was his assertion that the inability of the Director of Public Prosecutions to use a rambling report from FWA as a brief for prosecution meant that he had been declared innocent.

The next trench line in his layered defences is to turn the page of the script called, "I Didn't Do It - It Wasn't Me!!" to the scene where the allegations "will be vigorously defended against".

I surely wish that I could skip to the part where the Full Bench of the High Court of Australia says, "The applicant's appeal is denied." Of course that will be many a weary year from now.

In the meantime there will be further scenes of a government using this wretch as the piton with which they cling to the cliff-face of power. I wish they'd show a departure from usual practice and accept that he's had it and grant a pair to the Coalition with respect to his vote. This, of course, should be in reciprocation of the Coalition granting a pair for him also...just in case he decides to say "thanks" to the comrades by voting no-confidence in them !

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Post#189 Is There Hope? How to Reform Australian Politics (Peter Slipper, Craig Thomson and Cincinnatus)

I've been very disgusted and downcast contemplating the contents of the sewer that has cracked open in Canberra in the past year. I'll put it bluntly: The Gillard government is being propped up by a grubby, shameless little thief and a heinously hypocritical, drunken, dirty old man. I think of the alternative offered by the Opposition and see no prospect of a torrent of integrity from that direction.

When did Australian politics start on this trend to the nether regions? Was it rotten from the outset? Can we look to the Rum Rebellion as the archetype of public affairs conduct in these islands? I don't think so. Then there was a man named Lachlan Macquarie. He isn't coming to rescue us now. No-one is coming to rescue us.

We're going to have to dig ourselves out of this, vote by vote. But where shall we find the candidates to vote for? What decent or intelligent person wants to leap into the mess that is contemporary political life? There's a simple truth in this: The quality of the candidates is led by the motives which can be attributed to them. Our parliaments have been colonised by a parasitical political class whose objective is to make a career of being an MP. Parliaments exist for many reasons. Providing sinecures is a purpose to which they are being put, not the one for which they were intended.

Here is the model we need to follow:

Portrayed in this statue in the American city named for him, is Cincinnatus, hero of Rome. He is shown in the act of returning the fasces, symbol of power, and returning to his plough.

So it should be with our parliaments. The electoral laws should permit only one full term of service in any parliament. By that I mean that a term as a State MP would be a disqualification from candidacy for the Commonwealth Parliament and vice versa. That's right: one term in one parliament and that's your lot for life.

The objectors to this proposal would make the predictable argument that Ministers would not have an opportunity to develop skills and that we would lose the services of the good ones after only one term. This would be a significant objection to anyone who wasn't acquainted with the quality of the Ministers we already have (and have suffered already).

A nation whose parliaments were comprised entirely of oncers would be an interesting place. To make it more interesting we can abolish ticket voting for the Senate and State legislative councils. This would increase informal voting but I believe that anyone who can't fill in the ballot paper isn't depriving us of much. I don't mean by this people with physical disabilities who require assistance in voting. Nor do I wish to disparage those whose faculties are failing through illness. I mean knuckleheads, pure and simple.

Also, by whatever means it takes, the people of Queensland should have restored to them a house of review so that they don't have to elect a dictatorship if they don't want to.

Now I have lit a candle and may return to cursing the darkness with an unafflicted conscience.