TOO many Labor politicians have spent their careers fleecing the people they claim to serve – and many have secretly done so since before entering parliament.
From early in their trade union careers, some of the ALP’s most senior figures have refined their skills of deception by practicing on unsuspecting, low-paid union members.
On graduating from the unions, they seamlessly transfer to the big league in Canberra – where they’re set loose gouging the wider population to pay for their high-spending pet causes.
While such “fleecing” might be unethical, it’s often legal. By enacting appropriate union rules or federal legislation they legitimise the dark art of swiping unfair amounts of other people’s money.
Once in parliament, most Labor MPs are usually adept at hiding their sometimes dirty trade union past.
Occasionally, however, their deceptions have been so toxic and have harmed so many people that their union history spills across into their political lives.
Such revelations are often mind-boggling to honest, every-day Australians.
Former Labor leader Julia Gillard and her failed successor Bill Shorten were unable to escape the stench of their trade union “activities”. Nor was their colleague, former Labor MP Craig Thomson who destroyed his career, his reputation and his union with his pre-parliamentary “training”.
Gillard was Prime Minister of Australia in 2011 when her prior antics as a senior union lawyer made national headlines.
The story was so damaging it prompted her to move to appoint a government “press tsar” with wide-ranging censorship powers. Thankfully, she was denied this by parliament.
Gillard was accused of providing “on-the-side” legal services to help her Australian Workers Union boyfriend Bruce Wilson set up an “irregular slush fund”. This personal fund was used in the 1990s to skim a reported $400,000 away from members of the AWU.
A subsequent Royal Commission found money from the slush fund had been used by Wilson to renovate Gillard’s Melbourne home – among other personal uses. But Gillard was never prosecuted.
In 2004 Bill Shorten negotiated a bad faith deal for members of his Australian Workers Union, which saw their pay cut by a combined $3m a year.
At the very time Shorten was negotiating away his members’ wages, he struck a side deal with the same company to pay his union $48,000 a year for “training”. These payments had been kept secret from members.
It later emerged during his Royal Commission cross examination that Shorten’s 2007 campaign to enter parliament had been unwittingly paid for by his unsuspecting union members.
He’d received an undisclosed sum of $75,000, including a company-funded campaign director to help fund his successful 2007 election. But Shorten was never prosecuted.
After transferring to federal parliament, former Health Services Union boss Craig Thomson was accused of more than 150 counts of fraudulently using his trade union-supplied credit card – including allegations he used it to pay prostitutes.
The scandal, which broke in 2012, saw Thomson reluctantly booted from the ALP despite a brand damaging campaign by his Labor mates to cover for him.
At the time, then Government Leader of the House (and current Labor leader) Anthony Albanese said the claims against Thomson were “not at all” a serious matter. Thomson was later convicted in 2014 of 13 charges of theft and fined $25,000.
While Albanese has no history in trade unionism, he once had ties to the Communist Party of Australia reaching back to his student days.
This may help explain his extraordinarily poor judgement when it comes to spending other people’s money.PC
MAIN PICTURE: Labor’s Julia Gillard, Anthony Albanese, Bill Shorten and Craig Thomson.