This Week is all About Ensuring Integrity
This week in parliament has been all about integrity.
The Senate has been debating the Ensuring Integrity Bill which will give the Fair Work Commission the power to deregister unions and union officials if they repeatedly break industrial relations laws. The unions have mounted a sustained attack on the draft laws and the cross benchers for refusing to oppose them. These attacks were counter-productive and seem to have consolidated their support for the bill.
Labor tried to filibuster the bill in the Senate and when this became impossible and the bill looked set to pass, vowed to fight it all the way to the next election.
"This fight is not over. We will fight this until the next election and beyond," Labor leader Penny Wong told the upper house during Wednesday's debate on the bill.
"This fight will continue because we are here for the long haul. We have always been here for the long haul. Fundamentally, we fight for a fairer Australia."
Labor is trying to link the proposed laws, which also apply a public interest test to union mergers, to Westpac's money-laundering scandal.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said the government was pushing the legislation through the Senate to draw attention away from the banking scandals. Comments have been made during the Senate debate that union officials were going to be punished while company directors who committed crimes got away scot free.
This is not exactly true. The Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, has ordered the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) to investigate the role of Westpac directors and executives in the money laundering scandal and determine whether they should be punished. APRA has the power to strike off directors and to order the dismissal of executives.
However the need for APRA to take action may be redundant. So far the major shareholders, the financial funds that own the majority of shares in Westpac, have already demanded the scalps of the CEO, Brian Hartzer and the chairman, Lindsay Maxsted, and they may demand more resignations and perhaps the clean out of the whole board.
This is the great mistake of the Westpac establishment. They misread the tolerance of the shareholders when it came to compliance with integrity provisions of Commonwealth law. The bank took a cavalier approach to compliance because of a misguided view that profits were all important. It is obvious that the shareholders take a different view, which means that they will probably insist on a board and executive that fits with their culture.
Labor is trying to prove that the Government is complicit in a general undermining of integrity, not only by the banks. They are attempting this through a concerted attack on the Minister for Energy and Emission Reduction, Angus Taylor. Taylor is the epitome of a ‘born to rule’ Liberal. He is rich, a Rhodes Scholar with a successful business career behind him.
The Minister wrote a letter to Sydney Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, which overstated her travel expenditure by a factor of ten. He claimed in Parliament that the false number came from the Council web site. The Council contested this and Mr Taylor retracted the claim and apologised. Subsequent to this the shadow Attorney General, Mark Dreyfus, wrote to the NSW police alleging criminality on the part of Angus Taylor. On Tuesday the NSW police announced they were investigating the allegations to see whether they had merit. Labor has demanded that Mr Taylor step aside pending the conclusion of the investigation.
The Prime Minister has said that he doesn’t believe that there is sufficient evidence of criminality for him to demand the minister step aside. At this stage the NSW Police Commissioner appears to agree with him because he hasn’t indicated that a crime has even been committed, let alone whether the minister was involved.
In fact to date the minister’s office hasn’t even been contacted by the cops.