Don’t forget: monopolies are bad

As the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption gets under way, the Counsel assisting the Commission has made an important point:

Jeremy Stoljar SC, said the people who ran trade unions held a special position of trust in representing the interests of their members.

But they did not have the same level of scrutiny as listed companies with large or institutional shareholders to keep a close watch on board activities.

“The law of this country recog­nises that an officer of a company owes a range of legal, equitable and statutory duties,” Mr Stoljar said.

“Perhaps a union official’s oblig­ations should be even more onerous. After all, a shareholder in a company listed on a stock exchange can always sell his or her shares and move on. It is not so easy to switch unions.”

But why is not so easy to switch unions?  This is because the law refuses to allow the registration of other trade unions if there is already one to which potential members could conveniently belong.

Unless the conveniently belong to rule is abolished – and I very much hope that this is one of the key recommendations of the RC – all the regulatory controls and penalties in the world will not stop aberrant behaviour by some union officials.

Recall the Australian Wheat Board and the monopoly single desk arrangement.  It is hard to believe that the staff of the AWB would have behaved in the way they did if they had faced more competition in Australia.

In fact, it was the Canadian competitors who squealed about the AWB deal in Iraq, but no one in Australia would listen, at least initially.

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10 Responses to Don’t forget: monopolies are bad

  1. stackja

    Don’t forget: monopolies are bad

    Government enterprises too!

  2. Bear Necessities

    So instead of trying to secure an upper house seat with the ALP, they would need to provide customer service to members. Tony N from WA would say you are asking the wrong question.

  3. The Pugilist

    Don’t forget: monopolies are bad

    Government enterprises too!

    In a lot of cases, monopolies are only monopolies because they are government enterprises (or at least are enterprises favoured by governments somehow)…

  4. Driftforge

    Make a Trade Union as easy to form as a company, and with equivalent oversight.

  5. thefrollickingmole

    Thats probably one of the union movements biggest downfalls.
    We had a strike in Port Hedland which “our” (LMHU) union refused to back, I wont allege corruption, just that our employer paid all the union dues for the staff there, regardless of if they joined or not.
    We instead had the local AWU chap take us on, he was a real red ragger “hate the bosses” type but straight as an arrow.

    The company paid for the LMHU rep to fly up from Perth and try to get us to drop the action, while simultaneously refusing to represent us in court.
    She also refused to let the AWU take on the action under the umbrella of the LMHU..

    Long story short the company humiliated itself in court (the judge expressed anger at how ill prepared they were) and we won on every point contested.

    Then the LMHU appealed against the successful action on demarcation and the whole thing was set aside on that basis.

    I have respect for honest unions, but nothing but hatred for pocket lining scum.
    That could only happen because it was impossible to switch to a more “switched on” union.

  6. Squirrel

    “Unless the conveniently belong to rule is abolished – and I very much hope that this is one of the key recommendations of the RC – all the regulatory controls and penalties in the world will not stop aberrant behaviour by some union officials.”

    Genuinely enforced laws which protect the right of workers not to join the “convenient” union, or any other union, would also assist in this regard.

  7. Famer Gez

    Judith, that would be the Canadian Wheat Board you are talking about which was a monopoly until very recently. All other players in the Iraq market payed bribes otherwise they would have not sold anything. As most large grain companies are private you did not hear of these bribes. The US was the biggest hypocrite in this affair as their government provided interest free loans for grain sales. Still payola whatever way you look at it. The ABC/ALP version of events left out all these facts and unfairly brutalised the AWB for doing what was usual business in the Iraq market. It was only the war and sanctions that changed the game and the US came out as the winner, displacing Iraq’s preferred wheat supplier, Australia! I think it is called “gun boat diplomacy”.

  8. The Left thinks it can tell a good monopoly from a bad one

  9. john constantine

    the abc led the charge to bring down the awb,as the awb was seen as something impossible for the left to occupy and turn to its ends.

    funny enough,the victorian abc country hour boasted that it had the ‘direct number’ to the head of the australian arm of one multinational,and never a week went by without his insight into why the wheat board had to go.

    the abc couldn’t or wouldn’t understand that the totally owned australian arm of a multinational was the same company,just with a different name for australian use.

    the producer of the abc vic country hour was reduced to tears one day.on air he sobbed that the awb had “dodged the bullet”.he now pushes the values of the australian left in the pacific,taxpayer funded.

    the multinational was later fined for paying bribes to iraq,but it was cunning enough to make a massive shower of payments under the $10,000 limit that triggers examination. the awb just wrote big cheques.

    now we see that australian standard white wheat has gone from a premium brand to a discount commodity.

    the big money in grain trading isn’t the commission,it is the ability to blend low price crap in with good stuff,and sell the shipload as good stuff at full price. because asw wheat had a good reputation,deregulation meant windfall profits for traders until end users abandoned the idea that australian grain was worth a premium.

    observe the explosion of grain exported in containers now,not shiploads. harder to hide crap in containers.

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