A significant fight in the next government will be around the extent to which it will get stuck into workplace law reform. Despite whatever faux demonisation some in the labour movement will be keen on, Tony Abbott is notoriously not very sympathetic. Aside from his own, vaguely pro-union views, Abbott has seen the political consequences of grabbing onto the “third-rail” of Australian politics, labour market deregulation. Despite a thumping majority in 2004, it led to his beloved John Howard being unceremoniously turfed out in 2007. Abbott’s just not interested, Liberal MPs tell VEXNEWS, already looking back nostalgically on Howard’s way.
So, the HR Nicholls Society could have played an important role for those in the Liberal party room who champion limited government and less regulation. VEXNEWS is told that’s precisely why the organisation was revived a couple of years ago, to attempt to re-address those issues within a Liberal party that is reform-fatigued after the epic political failure of Workchoices (labour market reform numbering 1500 pages of regulation, actually), to provide moral and research support for those MPs keen on addressing the issues.
HR NICHOLLS SOCIETY IMPORTANT PART OF NATIONAL DEBATE
We like these big debates, and we think groups like HR Nicholls, even the annoying GetUp! are important in ensuring it’s not just politicians or those with a vested financial interest actively participating in our national arguments.
As a result, we think it’s a terrible shame the HR Nicholls Society risked its reputation by hosting the demonstrably corrupt and shamelessly hypocritical suspended millionaire union boss Kathy Jackson, addressing their annual dinner, no less, essentially endorsing her activities and role in the nearly destroyed union, if not her views.
A CHAMPION OF GREED
Jackson’s not a deep thinker but to the extent she’d have considered opinions on these matters, she’d be a corporatist, as long as she gets to sit at the front of the plane. She’s certainly no champion of the free market, her union in Victoria has been utterly incapable of delivering anything to its members, who are among the worst-paid hospital workers in the country (despite having the best-paid officials) even in the highly protected, statutory monopoly market-place in which it operates. One union insider described the HSU:
“They are fattest and weakest beast in the workplace jungle, a toothless, fat, lazy tiger with the ethical approach of the jackal and hyena (some may consider this a reference to Marco Bolano, Jackson’s now suspended Deputy General Secretary who was apparently on nearly $4000 per week salary despite being barely literate).”
Equally troubled, an active supporter of the HR Nicholls Society expressed distress about the sorry event to VEXNEWS last night:
“No, it’s not a good look, I agree. While we’re appreciative she’s tried to blow up Craig Thomson and unseat this terrible government, I personally think that’s where it should end. You’ve shown pictures of her posing with Noam Chomsky, there are credible allegations against her that she hasn’t ever rebutted so I think she’s not really the right image (for the HR Nicholls Society). Controversy is good but the leadership of that union is not greatly different from an organised crime syndicate, in their intention, without the violence (VEXNEWS: Actually there has been violence at union meetings). Maybe next year, to fully embrace the controversial attention some crave, we could have ‘industrial conciliator’ Mick Gatto come and discuss his experiences on the cutting edge of industrial relations…”
UNPROTECTED ACTION WITH KATHY JACKSON
The discredited union boss-hog Kathy Jackson’s willingness to address the group was explained surprisingly candidly by their guest of dishonour, no-one else wants to hear from her these days. That’s not because she’s a truth-speaking whistle-blower, it’s because those who know her best, those intimately familiar with her record and performance and breathtaking hypocrisy find the whole act as obscene as a Pattaya ping-pong performance, certainly similarly requiring a high level of flexibility and gymnastic skill.
Until yesterday afternoon when Jackson was suspended from her office as HSUeast executive president, she was the second-highest-paid union official in Australia, behind only Mike Williamson, at her peak on $270,000 plus $80,000 board fees, plus luxury Volvo SUV, plus a wide-range of unexplained, undocumented payments that appear to be in the multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars.
HAVING A LARF
The vision of her making the effort to charmingly laugh at former Liberal Workplace Relations Minister and Maritime union-buster Peter Reith’s undoubtedly hilarious after-dinner whispered banter was surely enough to put delegates off their petits-fours. Perhaps he was reminiscing about how Tony Abbott encouraged him to run for the federal Liberal party presidency but ended up publicly voting for former Victorian Treasurer Alan Stockdale. Good times.
Certainly, the standing ovation for Wacko Jacko’s oratorial efforts was enforced with a nauseating Soviet-style efficiency and strictness at the gathering, we hear, led by her Jackson’s free counsel Stuart Wood SC, a former champagne socialist at Ormond College, Melbourne University until ideologically cleansed at the rough, tough law firm Freehills, whose splendid art collection is itself a celebration of the glories of the free market. Wood has gone on to become one of the leading boss’s barristers in the Victorian bar. Naturally, he has been sympathetic to Kathy Jackson, a multi-millionaire property owner who was, from one way of looking at it, merely made the most of her opportunities to profit from the efforts of labour, without excessive regard for regulation. By her own pilfering, Ms Jackson, has indeed become an unusual champion of the free market. Whether it’s been lavish overseas travel, childcare, household bills, luxury automobiles or whatever, it’s all been ‘free’ for her. Not exactly what Milton Friedman had in mind, but any port in a storm, might be the HR Nicholls Society’s logic.
But seriously, should the current Fair Work Australia civil charges against Jackson eventually be supplemented with criminal charges relating to her administration of the HSU, we think the mostly good people behind the HR Nicholls Society will have reason to reflect – as no doubt many others have before – that spending just one wild night with Kathy Jackson was perhaps not the good idea it had initially seemed.
UPDATE: A copy of her speech is now available. It has been rightly condemned by our bearded friend, inner-urban blogger Andrew Crook as an outrageous humbug, chock full of hypocrisy about trade union campaign finance, without mentioning the part where she obtained many hundreds of thousands of dollars to run her own union election campaigns. How does she sleep at night?
Not so soundly, it seems.
In her remarks, the previously troubled union boss talks openly about what ails her.
She told the audience:
I want to finish on a personal note. I am not Joan of Arc. I am not a political virgin…
Peter Reith woke up at that point.
The only thing perhaps I have in common with Joan of Arc is that I did suffer a bout of psychiatric illness and the historical consensus now is that she frequently did. But a period of illness, psychiatric or otherwise, brings one advantage – it focuses one’s attention on the things that are really important. So when I left hospital I made a very conscious decision to be unpolitic – to say what I think, do what I think is the right thing and let the devil take the hindmost.
It does rather seem from our vantage point that in fact the devil took the luxury Volvo SUV. Although with the Administrator appointed, that will have to be returned to the union – and sold for the benefit of members in the same manner as the auction of Imelda Marcos’s shoes – some time this week.
Jackson’s assertions outlined in today’s Financial Review that union democracy is a sham is much more the confession than she probably ever realised.
Ms Jackson is certainly not what she pretends to be. An elite private school girl, who stumbled into Labor politics at Uni, whose only job has been at the HSU (or its predecessors). She’s never worked in a hospital, never worked in the health sector at all. She has been a key beneficiary of the process of which she now complains. In some respects she’s right, incumbents (like her) have been protected by phenomenon like union staff social clubs that *voluntarily* (a generous use of the word) dock staff salaries in case there’s an election challenge from the rank and file or a rival grouping. The money can be overwhelming. It’s an issue that needs examination by someone’s whose sincerity is not so much questioned as completely and utterly non-existent.