BILL Shorten’s credibility has been questioned by the commissioner into trade union corruption amid allegations the Labor leader kept workers in the dark over secret deals that dudded workers out of millions of dollars.
In a second bruising day at the royal commission, Mr Shorten’s answers earned a stinging rebuke from Commissioner Dyson Heydon.
“A lot of your answers are non- responsive … What I am concerned about more is your credibility as a witness,” Mr Heydon said, before directing Mr Shorten to answer the questions.
Those questions focused on allegations of “secret” deals and “bogus payments” made during Mr Shorten’s time as Victorian and national secretary of the Australian Workers’ Union.
It was another bad day for Mr Shorten.
On Wednesday it was revealed he had not declared a $ 40,000 donation to his election campaign until just two days before the hearing.
Yesterday Jeremy Stoljar, counsel assisting the commission, quizzed the Opposition Leader on a “secret deal” struck with the bosses of Chiquita Mushrooms that saw $ 4000 a month paid to the union for “training programs”.
Mr Stoljar asked if there was a “major conflict of interest” in negotiating an enterprise bargaining agreement that looked at a drastic cut in worker numbers while setting up secret training payments.
Mr Stojar said previous evidence had shown those payments were made to stop industrial action.
Chiquita Mushrooms human resources manager Joe Agostino has previously told the commission the deal saved the company more than $ 3 million a year, cost 157 workers their jobs and left those still there worse off.
Mr Shorten denied the deal was secret and said he had worked to secure workers’ jobs from a move to casual labour.
He was trying to keep workers safe from the high rate of injuries they had been suffering at the mushroom farm.
He was also grilled over $ 300,000 in “bogus” payments that secured union co- operation on the giant $ 2.4 billion Melbourne EastLink project.
Mr Shorten was Victorian secretary of the AWU when the payments of $ 100,000 a year plus GST were agreed by builder Thiess John Holland.
The union issued a string of invoices for advertisements in the union magazine, training and dinner dances to make up the payments.
Mr Stoljar said the invoices were being issued with “no regard” as to whether the events and services had “actually been provided”.
One invoice for $ 30,000 was for research on “Back Strain in Civil Construction Industry” but no research had ever been provided.
“Is this a bogus invoice that’s claiming payment for work that was never done?” asked Mr Stoljar.
Mr Shorten responded: “I would never be party to issuing any bogus invoices, full stop.
“I wouldn’t be doing my job if I was asking workers to pay for their own tickets to a dinner dance or to pay for their own health and safety representative training, for instance, when I can get a company to do it.”
The commission examined other side deals struck for “paid education” at the same time as the union was negotiating EBAs with employers.
The hearing was adjourned and Mr Shorten could be recalled for cross- examination.