Shortengate contains so many threads that it could unravel not only his and others’ political carrears but the entire corrupt and feudal structure that is Australia’s unique industrial relations system. Remember, we have the only system in the world where a judicial body determines what the pay rates should be for the vast majority of workers. And that system is run as a retirement home for Union lags and ALP-friendly lawyers.
Anthony Klan has asked 10 questions that need to be answered in a case that would fall within racketeering laws if it were to be addressed in the U.S.
The facts are that one firm, Cleanevent, was allowed to create a monopoly in certain areas of cleaning by negotiating with Bill Shorten as head of the AWU an agreement whereby its workers were paid $18 per hour while those in rival suppliers of the service had to be paid $28 per hour. The monopoly Union agreed to this in return for receiving $25,000 a year from Cleanevent as well as the contact details of all their workers. These were signed up to swell the numbers the AWU claimed to represent. It is not clear whether they actually got charged Union fees.
There appears to have been no shortage of workers willing to supply their labour at $18 per hour, and indeed, some may well have been prepared to work for less. In that sense the workers themselves were not dudded but the inflated costs that consumers pay for their service was diverted from the (excessive) wages the Fair Work Commission provides to workers largely to the profits of Cleanevent. The firm is estimated to have earned $2 million a year from the scam, and the union’s paltry $25,000 a year speaks volumes about the commercial skills of the silver tails heading up the modern unions.
While questions need to be asked of Shorten who is forced to appear before the Royal Commission, the net should be wider. In particular, where was the ostensible defender of competition the ACCC? It has been headed over the years of the agreement by two ALP aligned Chairs. Here is a naked case of a monopoly service being created in the only way such services can be sustained, that is through the connivance of government. The ACCC chooses to pursue trivia in highly competitive industries rather than to root out institutional assisted monopolies where they clearly lead to exploitation of the consumer and stilted playing field for business rivals.
But while the ACCC has been blind or sleeping, it is the arbitration system that is the real cause of consumer exploitation and workplace inflexibilities.
Tomorrow marks the first anniversary of the death of Ray Evans, the founder of the H. R. Nicholls Society and agitator for free markets in labour. Other than generating a national debate on IR all the agitation has merely led to shifts in the form of labour regulation, many of which have proved retrogressive. Could this Royal Commission and the scandals it is unearthing finally start unravelling the regulatory straightjacket Ray was tilting against?