The Sydney Morning Herald editorial is brutal on ALP leader Bill Shorten.
The position of Bill Shorten as federal Labor leader is becoming untenable. The latest revelations of his union past published by Fairfax Media on Wednesday afternoon raise further doubts and questions about his suitability as alternative prime minister.
Mr Shorten should respond to the questions immediately, in full, rather than wait until he fronts the royal commission into trade union corruption in late August.
The Opposition Leader should also reflect on the damage his continued leadership is doing to Labor, and as such to the interests of the people he claims to represent.
As long as the Australian Workers Union stain lingers and/or grows, Labor cannot hope to win an election next September, let alone a snap poll that Prime Minister Tony Abbott may well call to capitalise on the Shorten malaise.
Last week Fairfax Media identified tens of millions of dollars of largely unexplained employer payments to the AWU’s Victorian branch from January 2004 to late 2007. Mr Shorten was state secretary from 1998 and federal secretary from 2001 to 2007.
Mr Shorten called the reports “an unfair smear”. They were not. They reflected legitimate investigations into a man asking voters to trust him.
The latest revelations are even more damning.
The fine print in documents lodged with the Australian Electoral Commission and AWU bank records show the giant builder Thiess John Holland paid Mr Shorten’s union nearly $300,000 after he struck a landmark workplace deal that saved the company as much as $100 million on the Melbourne Eastlink tollway project.
The deal was hugely favourable to the employer, just like other deals struck by the AWU during Mr Shorten’s reign. Some deals involved payments to the AWU, or the payment of member’s dues. The AWU struck agreements with companies when it suited the union’s political purpose, which was to bolster membership. This allowed the AWU to assert its dominance over rival unions and bolster the power of its leaders in the Labor party’s corrupted, undemocratic structure.
Mr Shorten has described as completely unfair and false any implications that he is not completely motivated and committed to getting a better deal for workers, for productive relations at companies and for standing up for people.