CRED­I­BIL­ITY QUERIED

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - MATTHEW BENNS AL­LE­GA­TION: Bill Shorten signed a se­cret deal that cost 157 work­ers their jobs and made oth­ers worse off in re­turn for $ 4000 train­ing pay­ments to the union. RE­SPONSE: Mr Shorten de­nied it was a se­cret deal and said he had been work­ing to se

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.

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